Legislative Bargaining with Filibusters: A Dynamic, Game-Theoretic Approach

Project: Research

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Recent economic theory and empirical evidence all point to the importance of political institutions in shaping policymakers' incentives and policy outcomes. This literature has particularly focused on majoritarian institutions, in which a policy choice is made once a majority of legislators votes for it. In reality, however, it is common in democratic democracy that minorities are allowed, or at least not legally forbidden, to take obstructive actions aiming to delay or block the vote on the policy reforms that are in favor of the majority. Throughout the twentieth century there were notorious filibusters in the U.S. Senate that successfully and substantially delayed the passage of some civil rights acts. Since the democratization of Taiwan in the late 80s, its congress has also been characterized by occasional physical clashes, normally initiated by the minority party, to stop the vote or discussion on certain bills. Minority rights in the form of filibusters or other similar obstructive behaviors have played critical roles in democratic policymaking. Yet there are still few economic theories, if any, that attempt to study the economic effects of minority rights in a democratic institution.This proposed research project is aimed to bridge this gap. In particular, an analytical framework based on dynamic games is being developed to model legislative institutions that incorporate both majority rules and minority rights. Such modeling framework will host positive theories that explain how the occurrence, frequency and duration of filibusters are determined by the specific institutional arrangements, preference polarization, heterogeneity of party members, the strength of the majority party, congressional workload and patience of the legislators. Such analysis will also provide theoretical foundations that guide rigorous empirical studies of filibusters and measurements of the related variables. Findings from this proposed project are also expected to shed lights on constitutional reforms in old democracies as well as the constitutional design for countries/regions, such as Hong Kong, that are in transition to democracy.


Project number9041695
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/08/1121/03/13