, Volume 74, Issue 3, pp 269-292

Lobbying and asymmetric information

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Abstract

Informational lobbying — the use by interest groups of their (alleged) expertise or private information on matters of importance for policymakers in an attempt to persuade them to implement particular policies — is often regarded as an important means of influence. This paper analyzes this phenomenon in a game setting. On the one hand, the interest group is assumed to have private information which is relevant to the policymaker, whilst, on the other hand, the policymaker is assumed to be fully aware of the strategic incentives of the interest group to (mis)report or conceal its private information.

It is shown that in a setting of partially conflicting interests a rationale for informational lobbying can only exist if messages bear a cost to the interest group and if the group's preferences carry information in the ‘right direction’. Furthermore, it is shown that it is not the content of the message as such, but rather the characteristics of the interest group that induces potential changes in the policymaker's behavior. In addition, the model reveals some interesting results on the relation between, on the one hand, the occurrence and impact of lobbying and, on the other hand, the cost of lobbying, the stake which an interest group has in persuading the policymaker, the similarity between the policymaker's and the group's preferences, and the initial beliefs of the policymaker. Moreover, we relate the results to some empirical findings on lobbying.

qu]Much of the pressure placed upon government and its agencies takes the form of freely provided “objective” studies showing the important outcomes to be expected from the enactment of particular policies (Bartlett, 1973: 133, his quotation marks).

qu]The analysis here is vague. What is needed is an equilibrium model in which lobbying activities have influence. Incomplete information ought to be the key to building such a model that would explain why lobbying occurs (information, collusion with decision makers, and so on) and whether lobbying expenses are socially wasteful. (Tirole, 1989: Ch. 1.3, p. 77, Rentseeking behavior).

We are grateful for comments made by participants of the workshop ‘Economic Models of Political Behavior’ of the European Consortium of Political Research (Bochum, 2–7 April 1990), the European Public Choice Society Meeting (Meersburg, 18–21 April 1990), the World Congress of the Econometric Society (Barcelona, 22–28 August, 1990), and the Congress of the European Economic Association (Lisbon, 31 August – 2 September 1990). In particular we acknowledge the helpful and stimulating comments by Eric Drissen, John Hudson, Karl Dieter Opp, Arthur Schram, and Franz Wirl.