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Published August 2, 2017 | Submitted
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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

Original version dated to June 2006. We are grateful to the Center for Economic Policy Studies at Princeton University, the Princeton Laboratory for Experimental Social Science, and the National Science Foundation (SES-0450712, SES-0418150, and SES-0617820) for financial support. Marco 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. We thank Anna Bassi, Kyle Mattes, and Stephanie Wang for research assistance. Published as Battaglini, M., & Palfrey, T.R. (2012). The dynamics of distributive politics. Economic Theory, 739-777.

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