How An Agenda Setter Induces Legislators to Adopt Policies They Oppose
This paper addresses the puzzle of why redistributive legislation, which benefits a small minority, may pass with overwhelming majorities. It models a legislature in which the same agenda setter serves for two periods, showing how he can exploit a legislature (completely) in the first period by promising future benefits to legislators who support him. In equilibrium, a large majority of legislators vote for the first-period proposal because they thereby maintain the chance of belonging to the minimum winning coalition in the future. Legislators may therefore approve policies by large majorities, or even unanimously, that benefit few, or even none, of them. The results are robust; but institutional arrangements (such as entitlements) can reduce the agenda setter's power by reducing his discretion to reward and punish legislators, and rules (such as sequential voting) can increase individual legislators' incentives to resist exploitation.
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