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Published 2012 | public
Journal Article

The dynamics of distributive politics


We study dynamic committee bargaining over an infinite horizon with discounting. In each period, a committee proposal is generated by a random recognition rule, the committee chooses between the proposal and a status quo by majority rule, and the voting outcome in period t becomes the status quo in period t + 1. We study symmetric Markov equilibria of the resulting game and conduct an experiment to test hypotheses generated by the theory for pure distributional (divide-the-dollar) environments. In particular, we investigate the effects of concavity in the utility functions, the existence of a Condorcet winning alternative, and the discount factor (committee "impatience"). We report several new findings. Voting behavior is selfish and myopic. Status quo outcomes have great inertia. There are strong treatment effects that are in the direction predicted by the Markov equilibrium. We find significant evidence of concave utility functions.

Additional Information

© 2011 Springer-Verlag. Received: 22 September 2010. Accepted: 4 March 2011. Published online: 7 April 2011. We thank audiences at Northwestern University, NYU, MIT, the 2007 Constitutional Political Economy Conference in Torino, the 2007 Wallis Conference in Rochester, and the 2007 Workshop in Behavioral Public Economics in Innsbruck for comments. Anna Bassi, Kyle Mattes, Salvatore Nunnari, and Stephanie Wang provided valuable research assistance. Battaglini gratefully acknowledges financial support from a NSF CAREER Award (SES-0547748) and the hospitality of the Kellogg School's MEDS department for the academic year 2006–2007. Palfrey gratefully acknowledges financial support of grants from the National Science Foundation (SES-0617820 and SES-0962802) and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 18, 2023