The Informational Theory of Legislative Committees: An Experimental Analysis

64 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2016

See all articles by Marco Battaglini

Marco Battaglini

Cornell University

Ernest Lai

Lehigh University - Department of Economics

Wooyoung Lim

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) - Department of Economics

Joseph Tao-yi Wang

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 2016

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 e efficient 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: information transmission, laboratory experiment, legislative committees

JEL Classification: C72, C82, D83

Suggested Citation

Battaglini, Marco and Lai, Ernest and Lim, Wooyoung and Wang, Joseph Tao-yi, The Informational Theory of Legislative Committees: An Experimental Analysis (June 2016). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11356, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2804534

Marco Battaglini (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Ernest Lai

Lehigh University - Department of Economics ( email )

620 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

Wooyoung Lim

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) - Department of Economics ( email )

Clear Water Bay
Kowloon, Hong Kong
China

Joseph Tao-yi Wang

National Taiwan University - Department of Economics ( email )

1 Roosevelt Road, Section 4
Department of Economics
Taipei, 106
Taiwan
886-2-33668411 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://homepage.ntu.edu.tw/~josephw/

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