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Decision costs in legislative bargaining: An experimental analysis


  • Luis Miller

    () (Centre for Experimental Social Sciences, Nuffield College, University of Oxford)

  • Christoph Vanberg

    () (Department of Economics, University of Cambridge)


We conduct an experiment to assess the effects of different decision rules on the costs of decision making in a multilateral bargaining situation. Specifically, we compare the amount of costly delay observed in an experimental bargaining game under majority and unanimity rule. Our main finding is that individual subjects are more likely to reject offers under unanimity rule. This increased rejection rate, as well as the requirement that all subjects agree, leads to more costly delay. This result provides empirical support for a classic argument in favor of less-than-unanimity decision rules put forth by Buchanan and Tullock (1962).

Suggested Citation

  • Luis Miller & Christoph Vanberg, 2011. "Decision costs in legislative bargaining: An experimental analysis," Discussion Papers 2011002, University of Oxford, Nuffield College.
  • Handle: RePEc:cex:dpaper:2011002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
    2. John Kagel & Hankyoung Sung & Eyal Winter, 2010. "Veto power in committees: an experimental study," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 13(2), pages 167-188, June.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:04:p:1181-1206_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Guillaume Fréchette & 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.
    5. Fr Chette, Guillaume R. & Kagel, John H. & Lehrer, Steven F., 2003. "Bargaining in Legislatures: An Experimental Investigation of Open versus Closed Amendment Rules," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 97(02), pages 221-232, May.
    6. 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.
    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:gamebe:v:107:y:2018:i:c:p:60-92 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Dongwon Lee, 2016. "Supermajority rule and bicameral bargaining," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 169(1), pages 53-75, October.
    3. Nunnari, Salvatore & Zapal, Jan, 2016. "Gambler's fallacy and imperfect best response in legislative bargaining," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 275-294.
    4. Miller, Luis & Vanberg, Christoph, 2015. "Group size and decision rules in legislative bargaining," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 288-302.
    5. Agranov, Marina & Tergiman, Chloe, 2014. "Communication in multilateral bargaining," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 75-85.
    6. repec:spr:jesaex:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s40881-017-0038-x is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Anita Gantner & Kristian Horn & Rudolf Kerschbamer, 2013. "Fair Division in Unanimity Bargaining with Subjective Claims," Working Papers 2013-31, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    8. Miller, Luis & Montero, Maria & Vanberg, Christoph, 2018. "Legislative bargaining with heterogeneous disagreement values: Theory and experiments," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 60-92.
    9. repec:kap:pubcho:v:173:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0470-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Maaser, Nicola & Traub, Stefan & Paetzel, Fabian, 2017. "Power illusion in coalitional bargaining: An experimental analysis," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168155, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Tremewan, James & Vanberg, Christoph, 2016. "The dynamics of coalition formation – A multilateral bargaining experiment with free timing of moves," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 33-46.

    More about this item


    Collective decision-making; Majority rule; Unanimity; Legislative bargaining; Experimental economics;

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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