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Stable Governments and the Allocation of Policy Portfolios


  • Austen-Smith, David
  • Banks, Jeffrey


Different members of coalition governments typically have responsibility for different aspects, or dimensions, of policy. Such responsibilities are allocated as portfolios to government members. Given a distribution of such portfolios, final government policy is derived as the accumulation of individual members' decisions in regard to their respective responsibilities. We develop a portfolio allocation model of government formation and policy decision in multiparty legislatures. In particular, we focus on stable portfolio allocations, where a stable allocation is one that yields a policy that no legislative coalition is willing or able to overturn. Several notions of stability are considered and related to the usual concept of the core. Among the results are that although stable allocations are not guaranteed, such allocations can exist with minority governments; and that final policy outcomes associated with stable governments need not be “centrist.“

Suggested Citation

  • Austen-Smith, David & Banks, Jeffrey, 1990. "Stable Governments and the Allocation of Policy Portfolios," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 891-906, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:84:y:1990:i:03:p:891-906_19

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    Cited by:

    1. Michel Le Breton & Karine Van der Straeten, 2013. "Alliances électorales entre deux tours de scrutin. Le point de vue de la théorie des jeux coopératifs et une application aux élections régionales de mars 2010," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 64(2), pages 173-240.
    2. Krehbiel, Keith & Diermeier, Daniel, 2001. "Institutionalism as a Methodology," Research Papers 1699, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    3. Gerald Pech, 2004. "Coalition Governments Versus Minority Governments: Bargaining Power, Cohesion and Budgeting Outcomes," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 121(1), pages 1-24, October.
    4. Agnieszka Rusinowska & Harrie Swart, 2008. "Negotiating a Stable Government: An Application of Bargaining Theory to a Coalition Formation Model," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 17(5), pages 445-464, September.
    5. Fabio Franchino & Anne J. Rahming, 2003. "Biased Ministers, Inefficiency, and Control in Distributive Policies," European Union Politics, , vol. 4(1), pages 11-36, March.
    6. Diermeier, Daniel & Merlo, Antonio, 2000. "Government Turnover in Parliamentary Democracies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 46-79, September.
    7. Michel Le Breton & Karine Van Der Straeten, 2017. "Alliances Électorales et Gouvernementales : La Contribution de la Théorie des Jeux Coopératifs à la Science Politique," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 127(4), pages 637-736.
    8. Piolatto, Amedeo, 2011. "Plurality versus proportional electoral rule: Which is most representative of voters?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 311-327, June.
    9. Moser, Peter, 1999. "The impact of legislative institutions on public policy: a survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 1-33, March.
    10. Thomas Fujiwara & Carlos Sanz, 2020. "Rank Effects in Bargaining: Evidence from Government Formation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 1261-1295.
    11. Manow, Philip, 1994. "Strukturinduzierte Politikgleichgewichte: Das Gesundheitsstrukturgesetz (GSG) und seine Vorgänger," MPIfG Discussion Paper 94/5, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    12. Artyom Jelnov & Pavel Jelnov, 2019. "Success, Survival and Probabilistic Voting: The Case of a ruling Party," Homo Oeconomicus: Journal of Behavioral and Institutional Economics, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 209-226, December.
    13. Merlo, Antonio, 1997. "Bargaining over Governments in a Stochastic Environment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 101-131, February.
    14. Yves Breitmoser, 2009. "Demand commitments in majority bargaining or how formateurs get their way," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 38(2), pages 183-191, June.
    15. Orestis Troumpounis & Dimitrios Xefteris, 2016. "Incomplete information, proportional representation and strategic voting," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 47(4), pages 879-903, December.
    16. Torun Dewan & Andrea Galeotti & Christian Ghiglino & Francesco Squintani, 2015. "Information aggregation and optimal structure of the executive," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 59632, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    17. Antonio Merlo, 2005. "Whither Political Economy? Theories, Facts and Issues," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Dec 2005.
    18. Thomas Fujiwara & Carlos Sanz, 2017. "Norms in bargaining: evidence from government formation in Spain," Working Papers 1741, Banco de España.
    19. Vannucci, Stefano, 1997. "Voting for a coalition government: A game-theoretic view," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 537-555, September.

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