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Repeated Agenda Setting and the Unanimous Approval of Bad Policies


  • Dahm, Matthias
  • Glazer, Amihai


This paper addresses the puzzle of why legislation, even highly inefficient legislation, may pass with overwhelming majorities. We model a egislature in which the same agenda setter serves for two periods, showing how he can exploit a legislature (completely) in the first period by romising future benefits to legislators who support him. In equilibrium, large majority of legislators vote for the first-period proposal because a ote in favor maintains the chance for membership in the minimum winning coalition in the future. The model thus generates situations in which egislators approve policies by large majorities, or even unanimously, that enefit few, or even none, of them. The results are robust: some institutional arrangements, such as super-majority rules or sequential voting, imit but do not eliminate the agenda setter's power to exploit the legislature, and other institutions such as secret voting do not limit his power.

Suggested Citation

  • Dahm, Matthias & Glazer, Amihai, 2010. "Repeated Agenda Setting and the Unanimous Approval of Bad Policies," Working Papers 2072/151549, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:urv:wpaper:2072/151549

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dennis Epple & Michael Riordan, 1987. "Cooperation and punishment under repeated majority voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 55(1), pages 41-73, September.
    2. Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal, 1978. "Political resource allocation, controlled agendas, and the status quo," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 27-43, December.
    3. David M. Primo, 2002. "Rethinking Political Bargaining: Policymaking with a Single Proposer," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(2), pages 411-427, October.
    4. Christopher Cotton, 2010. "Dynamic Legislative Bargaining with Endogenous Agenda Setting Authority," Working Papers 2010-20, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
    5. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1990. "The Power of the Proposal Maker in a Model of Endogenous Agenda Formation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 64(1), pages 1-20, January.
    6. Valentino Larcinese & Leonzio Rizzo & Cecilia Testa, 2005. "Allocating the US Federal Budget to the States: the Impact of the President," STICERD - Political Economy and Public Policy Paper Series 03, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    7. Gaines, Brian J. & Sala, Brian R., 2000. "A Further Look at Universalism and Partisanship in Congressional Roll Call Voting," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(04), pages 399-399, July.
    8. S. Nageeb Ali & B. Douglas Bernheim & Xiaochen Fan, 2014. "Predictability and Power in Legislative Bargaining," NBER Working Papers 20011, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Binmore, Ken & Osborne, Martin J. & Rubinstein, Ariel, 1992. "Noncooperative models of bargaining," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications,in: R.J. Aumann & S. Hart (ed.), Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 179-225 Elsevier.
    10. Kalandrakis, Anastassios, 2004. "A three-player dynamic majoritarian bargaining game," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 116(2), pages 294-322, June.
    11. Daniel Diermeier & Pohan Fong, 2011. "Legislative Bargaining with Reconsideration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 947-985.
    12. Tsung‐Sheng Tsai & C. C. Yang, 2010. "On Majoritarian Bargaining With Incomplete Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(4), pages 959-979, November.
    13. Glazer, Amihai & McMillan, Henry, 1992. "Amend the Old or Address the New: Broad-Based Legislation When Proposing Policies Is Costly," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 74(1), pages 43-58, July.
    14. Bueno De Mesquita, Bruce & Morrow, James D. & Siverson, Randolph M. & Smith, Alastair, 2002. "Political Institutions, Policy Choice and the Survival of Leaders," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(04), pages 559-590, October.
    15. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel & Luis Rayo, 2006. "The Power of the Last Word in Legislative Policy Making," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(5), pages 1161-1190, September.
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