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Reciprocity and Resistance to Comprehensive Reform

  • Urs Fischbacher
  • Simeon Schudy

Comprehensive reforms often fail or become piecemeal during preparatory phase of the legislation. A promising candidate to explain the failure of comprehensive reforms is vote trading on a subset of individual bills included in the original comprehensive reform. When legislators expect profitable vote trading on a subset of bills to be possible, they may ex ante strategically block comprehensive reforms. We analyze in a laboratory experiment whether trust and reciprocity among legislators leads to vote trading in sequential bill by bill procedures when commitment devices are missing and whether such vote trading possibilities cause resistance to comprehensive reform. We find that (i) transparent voting procedures facilitate vote trading based on trust in other legislators' reciprocity whereas (ii) secretive procedures reduce trust in others' reciprocity and makes vote trades difficult. (iii) Resistance to comprehensive reform occurs when legislators know that the alternative procedure to voting on the comprehensive reform is a transparent sequential bill by bill voting procedure, whereas (iv) legislators opt for voting on a comprehensive reform when the alternative procedure is a sequential secret ballot.

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Paper provided by Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz in its series TWI Research Paper Series with number 51.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:twi:respas:0051
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