A Voice without a Veto: Consensus-Building through Inclusion of Stakeholders
45 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2020 Last revised: 28 Jan 2021
Date Written: May 30, 2020
This paper studies whether including a broad group of stakeholders in policy advisory commissions helps build consensus. It may seem that including interested parties with conflicting preferences would increase conflict, but advisory commissions reach unanimity with a surprisingly high frequency. I propose two reasons why diversity can increase agreement. First, ideologically diverse parties from a variety of backgrounds can produce a greater variety of policy-relevant knowledge, increasing the valence of a proposal. Second, in a diverse commission, a proposal without broad appeal will lead some commission members to issue dissenting opinions, which reduce the government's willingness to follow the majority recommendation. I show in a formal model that both of these factors help increase consensus by incentivizing commission members to coordinate on a policy recommendation that all actors weakly prefer to the government's outside option. To test the model's predictions, I use a novel, hand-collected data set of 2,705 Swedish commissions of inquiry that completed their inquiries between 1990 and 2018. Swedish governments appoint commissions for all significant legislative initiatives, so the data minimize selection bias. As the theory predicts, I find that increasing stakeholder representation in broadly representative commissions increases consensus.
Keywords: Advisory committees, commissions of inquiry, consensus, Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM), Information and uncertainty, Policy valence
JEL Classification: DO2, D71 ,D74, D78, D82
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