Asymmetric Information and the Coherence of Legislation

David Austen-Smith, William H. Riker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Legislators' beliefs, preferences, and intentions are communicated in committees and legislatures through debates, the proposal of bills and amendments, and the recording of votes. Because such information is typically distributed asymmetrically within any group of decision makers, legislators have incentives to reveal or conceal private information strategically and thus manipulate the collective decision-making process in their favor. In consequence, any committee decision may in the end reflect only the interests of a minority. We address a problem of sharing information through debate in an endogenous, agenda-setting, collective-choice process. The model is game theoretic and we find in the equilibrium to the game that at least some legislators have incentives to conceal private information. Consequently, the final committee decision can be “incoherent” by failing to reflect the preferences of all committee members fully. Additionally, we characterize the subset of legislators with any incentive to conceal data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)897-918
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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