The Political Coase Theorem: Experimental Evidence
56 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2014
Date Written: February 2014
The Political Coase Theorem (PCT) states that, in the absence of transaction costs, agents should agree to implement efficient policies regardless of the distribution of bargaining power among them. This paper uses a laboratory experiment to explore how commitment problems undermine the validity of the PCT. Overall, the results support theoretical predictions. In particular, commitment issues matter, and the existence of more commitment possibilities leads to better social outcomes. Moreover, we find that the link is valid when commitment possibilities are asymmetrically distributed between players and even when a redistribution of political power is required to take advantage of those possibilities. However, we also find that at low levels of commitment there is more cooperation than strictly predicted by our parameterized model while the opposite is true at high levels of commitment, and only large improvements in commitment opportunities have a significant effect on the social surplus, while small changes do not.
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