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Concentration of Power

Sep 2015 to Aug 2018

Researcher(s)

Sponsor(s)

Pennsylvania State University (Prime Sponsor is National Science Foundation)

A central goal of democracy is to achieve a disburse distribution of power. Participatory and representative institutions of government are designed with that goal in mind. And yet, a major theme of political discourse is the high and persistent degree of concentrated political power that emerges in democratic governments across space and time. The tendency for political power to concentrate is evidently difficult to control. This research investigates why political power concentrates. The investigators shall develop a framework and tools that offer clear strategic intuitions for how key players capture and control political processes, exploiting information about who has power in the future, and offering amendments contingent on previous voting decisions. Their framework launches a broader research agenda on identifying when information, transparency, and flexibility exacerbate the inequality of political and economic power.

The investigators propose two models of dynamic political institutions. The first is a framework of negotiations and policymaking where players have information about which players have agenda-setting power in the future. They find that transparency can exacerbate inequality and inefficiency. The second project is a framework of a flexible agenda-setter who cannot vote on outcomes but can make proposals to a voting body. The investigators find that even when voters are far-sighted and sophisticated, an agenda setter can manipulate the voting body by flexibly offering amendments that are contingent on the voting outcome.