Public Choice

, Volume 155, Issue 3–4, pp 373–394 | Cite as

Decision costs in legislative bargaining: an experimental analysis

  • Luis Miller
  • Christoph VanbergEmail author


We conduct an experiment to assess the effects of different decision rules on the costs of decision making in a multilateral bargaining situation. Specifically, we compare the amount of costly delay observed in an experimental bargaining game under majority and unanimity rule. Our main finding is that individual subjects are more likely to reject offers under unanimity rule. This higher rejection rate, as well as the requirement that all subjects agree, leads to more costly delay. This result provides empirical support for a classic argument in favor of less-than-unanimity decision rules put forth by Buchanan and Tullock (The calculus of consent: logical foundations of constitutional democracy, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1962).


Collective decision-making Majority rule Unanimity Legislative bargaining Experimental economics 

JEL Classification

C78 C92 D71 D72 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baron, D. P., & Ferejohn, J. A. (1989). Bargaining in legislatures. American Political Science Review, 83(4), 1181–1206. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Buchanan, J. M., & Tullock, G. (1962). The calculus of consent: logical foundations of constitutional democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Google Scholar
  3. Diermeier, D., & Gailmard, S. (2006). Self-interest, inequality, and entitlement in majoritarian decision-making. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 1, 327–350. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Diermeier, D., & Morton, R. (2005). Proportionality versus perfectness: experiments in majoritarian bargaining. In D. Austen-Smith & J. Duggan (Eds.), Social choice and strategic behavior: essays in honor of Jeffrey S. Banks (pp. 201–226). Berlin: Springer. Google Scholar
  5. Fréchette, G. R., Kagel, J. H., & Lehrer, S. F. (2003). Bargaining in legislatures: an experimental investigation of open versus closed amendment rules. American Political Science Review, 97(2), 221–232. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fréchette, G. R., Kagel, J. H., & Morelli, M. (2005a). Nominal bargaining power, selection protocol and discounting in legislative bargaining. Journal of Public Economics, 89, 1497–1517. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fréchette, G. R., Kagel, J. H., & Morelli, M. (2005b). Behavioral identification in coalitional bargaining: an experimental analysis of demand bargaining and alternating offers. Econometrica, 73, 1893–1938. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fréchette, G. R. (2009). Learning in a multilateral bargaining game. Journal of Econometrics, 153, 183–195. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fischbacher, U. (2007). Zurich toolbox for readymade economic experiments. Experimental Economics, 10(2), 171–178. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Greiner, B. (2004). An online recruitment system for economic experiments. In K. Kremer & V. Macho (Eds.), Forschung und wissenschaftliches Rechnen 2003. GWDG Bericht 63. Ges. für Wiss. Datenverarbeitung (pp. 79–93). Göttingen: Gesellschaft fuer Wissenschaftliche Datenverarbeitung. Google Scholar
  11. Guttman, J. M. (1998). Unanimity and majority rule: a reconsideration of the calculus of consent. European Journal of Political Economy 14, 189–207. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kagel, J. H., Sung, H., & Winter, E. (2010). Veto power in committees: an experimental study. Experimental Economics, 13(2), 167–188. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. McKelvey, R. D. (1991). An experimental test of a stochastic game model of committee bargaining. In T. R. Palfrey (Ed.), Laboratory research in political economy (pp. 139–168). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Google Scholar
  14. Rubinstein, A. (1982). Perfect equilibrium in a bargaining model. Econometrica, 50(1), 97–109. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Selten, R. (1967). Die Strategiemethode zur Erforschung des eingeschränkt rationalen Verhaltens im Rahmen eines Oligopolexperiments. In H. Sauermann (Ed.), Beiträge zur experimentellen Wirtschaftsforschung (Vol. I, pp. 136–168). Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck). Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Experimental Social Sciences, Nuffield CollegeUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of Economics and King’s CollegeUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations