Bargaining foundations of the median voter theorem
We give a game-theoretic foundation for the median voter theorem in a one-dimensional bargaining model based on Baron and Ferejohn's [D. Baron, J. Ferejohn, Bargaining in legislatures, Amer. Polit. Sci. Rev. 83 (1989) 1181-1206] model of distributive politics. We prove that as the agents become arbitrarily patient, the set of proposals that can be passed in any pure strategy, subgame perfect equilibrium collapses to the median voter's ideal point. While we leave the possibility of some delay, we prove that the agents' equilibrium continuation payoffs converge to the utility from the median, so that delay, if it occurs, is inconsequential. We do not impose stationarity or any other refinements. Our result counters intuition based on the folk theorem for repeated games, and it contrasts with the known result for the distributive bargaining model that as agents become patient, any division of the dollar can be supported as a subgame perfect equilibrium outcome.
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