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The dynamics of distributive politics

  • Marco Battaglini


  • Thomas Palfrey


We study dynamic committee bargaining over an infinite horizon with discounting. In each period a committee proposal is generated by a random recognition rule, the committee chooses between the proposal and a status quo by majority rule, and the voting outcome in period t becomes the status quo in period t+1. We study symmetric Markov equilibria of the resulting game and conduct an experiment to test hypotheses generated by the theory for pure distributional (divide-the-dollar) environments. In particular, we investigate the effects of concavity in the utility functions, the existence of a Condorcet winning alternative, and the discount factor (committee "impatience"). We report several new findings. Voting behavior is selfish and myopic. Status quo outcomes have great inertia. There are strong treatment effects, that are in the direction predicted by the Markov equilibrium. We find significant evidence of concave utility functions.

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Article provided by Springer in its journal Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 49 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (April)
Pages: 739-777

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Handle: RePEc:spr:joecth:v:49:y:2012:i:3:p:739-777
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  1. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2005. "Inefficiency in Legislative Policy-Making: A Dynamic Analysis," NBER Working Papers 11495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Goeree, Jacob & Holt, Charles, 2000. "Quantal Response Equilibrium and Overbidding in Private-value Auctions," Working Papers 1073, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  3. Kalandrakis, Anastassios, 2004. "A three-player dynamic majoritarian bargaining game," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 294-322, June.
  4. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2008. "Fiscal Policy over the Real Business Cycle: A Positive Theory," NBER Working Papers 14047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bowen, T. Renee & Zahran, Zaki, 2009. "On Dynamic Compromise," Research Papers 2020, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  6. Marco Battaglini & Stephen Coate, 2008. "A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation, and Debt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 201-36, March.
  7. Frechette, Guillaume & Kagel, John H. & Morelli, Massimo, 2005. "Nominal bargaining power, selection protocol, and discounting in legislative bargaining," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(8), pages 1497-1517, August.
  8. McKelvey Richard D. & Palfrey Thomas R., 1995. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Normal Form Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 6-38, July.
  9. Guillaume Fr├ęchette & John Kagel & Massimo Morelli, 2012. "Pork versus public goods: an experimental study of public good provision within a legislative bargaining framework," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 779-800, April.
  10. Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A. & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2003. "Risk averse behavior in generalized matching pennies games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 97-113, October.
  11. Marina Azzimonti Renzo, 2004. "On the dynamic inefficiency of governments," 2004 Meeting Papers 228, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. Richard Mckelvey & Thomas Palfrey, 1998. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Extensive Form Games," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 9-41, June.
  13. Sandra Campo & Emmanuel Guerre & Isabelle Perrigne & Quang Vuong, 2003. "Semiparametric Estimation of First-price Auctions with Risk Averse Bidders," Working Papers 2003-09, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  14. Tasos Kalandrakis, 2007. "Majority Rule Dynamics with Endogenous Status Quo," Wallis Working Papers WP46, University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy.
  15. Marco Battaglini & Salvatore Nunnari & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2010. "Political Institutions and the Dynamics of Public Investment," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 142, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  16. Guillaume Fr├ęchette & John H. Kagel & Massimo Morelli, 2005. "Behavioral Identification in Coalitional Bargaining: An Experimental Analysis of Demand Bargaining and Alternating Offers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1893-1937, November.
  17. Guillaume R. Frechette & John H. Kagel & Steven Lehrer, 2000. "Bargaining in Legislatures: An Experimental Investigation of Open versus Closed Amendment Rules," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1515, Econometric Society.
  18. Frechette, Guillaume R. & Kagel, John H. & Morelli, Massimo, 2005. "Gamson's Law versus non-cooperative bargaining theory," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 365-390, May.
  19. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  20. Diermeier, Daniel & Gailmard, Sean, 2006. "Self-Interest, Inequality, and Entitlement in Majoritarian Decision-Making," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 1(4), pages 327-350, October.
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