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The Roman Metro Problem: Dynamic Voting and the Limited Power of Commitment

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  • Christian Roessler
  • Sandro Shelegia
  • Bruno Strulovici

Abstract

A frequently heard explanation for the underdeveloped metro system in Rome is the following one: If we tried to build a new metro line, it would probably be stopped by archeological finds that are too valuable to destroy, so the investment would be wasted. This statement, which seems self-contradictory from the perspective of a single decision maker, can be rationalized in a voting model with diverse constituents. One would think that commitment to finishing the metro line (no matter what is discovered in the process) can resolve this inefficiency. We show, however, that a Condorcet cycle occurs among the plans of action one could feasibly commit to, precisely when the metro project is defeated in step-by-step voting (that is, when commitment is needed). More generally, we prove a theorem for binary-choice trees and arbitrary learning, establishing that no plan of action which is majority-preferred to the equilibrium play without commitment can be a Condorcet winner among all possible plans. Hence, surprisingly, commitment has no power in a large class of voting problems. JEL Classification Numbers: D70, H41, C70

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Roessler & Sandro Shelegia & Bruno Strulovici, 2013. "The Roman Metro Problem: Dynamic Voting and the Limited Power of Commitment," Discussion Papers 1560, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1560
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kenneth A. Shepsle, 1970. "A Note on Zeckhauser's "Majority Rule with Lotteries on Alternatives": The Case of the Paradox of Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(4), pages 705-709.
    2. Jack, William & Lagunoff, Roger, 2006. "Dynamic enfranchisement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 551-572, May.
    3. B. D. Bernheim & S. N. Slavov, 2009. "A Solution Concept for Majority Rule in Dynamic Settings," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 76(1), pages 33-62.
    4. Barbera, S. & Maschler, M. & Shalev, J., 2001. "Voting for Voters: A Model of Electoral Evolution," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 40-78, October.
    5. Richard Zeckhauser, 1969. "Majority Rule with Lotteries on Alternatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(4), pages 696-703.
    6. Kevin Roberts, 2007. "Condorcet cycles? A model of intertemporal voting," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 29(3), pages 383-404, October.
    7. Messner, Matthias & Polborn, Mattias K., 2012. "The option to wait in collective decisions and optimal majority rules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(5), pages 524-540.
    8. Bruno Strulovici, 2010. "Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 933-971, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. P. Jean-Jacques Herings & Harold Houba, 2010. "The Condorcet Paradox Revisited," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-026/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. P. Jean-Jacques Herings & Harold Houba, 2016. "The Condorcet paradox revisited," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 47(1), pages 141-186, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Dynamic Voting; Condorcet Winner; Commitment; Condorcet Cycle; Social Experimentation; Status Quo Bias; Social Inefficiency; Social Inertia;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C70 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - General

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