18 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2016 Last revised: 10 Mar 2017
Date Written: November 21, 2016
We examine the intuition that in supermajoritarian settings, polarization and policy-making gridlock are fundamentally linked, but that a pressing common problem can reduce both. When actors' individual costs from a policy addressing such a problem differ, their preferences over the appropriate policy respond asymmetrically to increases in the magnitude of the problem. In a broad range of circumstances such increases can give rise to increased polarization, but may also simultaneously yield net welfare enhancing policy adjustments rather than entrenchment of gridlock. The association of polarization and gridlock is contingent on two underlying factors: how the problem responds to the policy solution, and the location of the status quo policy when the extent of the problem changes. We illustrate the model's logic by comparing U.S. national policy making in the Progressive Era and the present.
Keywords: Polarization, Gridlock, Legislative Productivity
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation