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The Informational Theory of Legislative Committees: An Experimental Analysis

Marco Battaglini (), Ernest K. Lai (), Wooyoung Lim () and Joseph Wang ()
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Ernest K. Lai: Department of Economics, Lehigh University

No 1601, Working Papers from National Taiwan University, Department of Economics

Abstract: We experimentally investigate the informational theory of legislative committees first proposed by Gilligan and Krehbiel [1987, 1989]. Two committees provide policy-relevant information to a legislature under two different procedural rules. Under the open rule, the legislature is free to make any decision; under the closed rule, the legislature is constrained to choose between a committee's proposal and an exogenous status quo. Our experiment shows that even in the presence of conflicts of interests, legislative committees help improve the legislature's decision by providing useful information. We further obtain evidence in support of three theoretical predictions: the Outlier Principle, according to which more extreme preferences of the committees reduce the extent of information transmission; the Distributional Principle, according to which the open rule is more distributionally eefficient than the closed rule; and the Restrictive-rule Principle, according to which the closed rule better facilitates the informational role of legislative committees. We, however, obtain mixed evidence for the Heterogeneity Principle, according to which more information can be extracted in the presence of multiple committees with heterogeneous preferences. Our experimental findings provide overall support for the equilibrium predictions of Gilligan and Krehbiel [1989], some of which have been controversial in the literature.

Keywords: Legislative Committees; Strategic Information Transmission; Laboratory Experiment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C72 D82 D83 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp, nep-gth and nep-net
Date: 2016-05, Revised 2016-05
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Published in Review of Economics, March 1999, pages 1-23

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https://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S000305541800059X First version, 2016 (application/pdf)
https://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S000305541800059X Revised version, 2016 (application/pdf)

Related works:
Journal Article: The Informational Theory of Legislative Committees: An Experimental Analysis (2019) Downloads
Working Paper: The Informational Theory of Legislative Committees: An Experimental Analysis (2016) Downloads
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