The Theoretical Case for Direct Democracy (2019)
(Joint with Rune Midjord and Tomás Rodríguez Barraquer)
Numerous formal studies have shown that information aggregation through voting is fragile in large elections when voters receive instrumental payoffs that depend only on the committee outcome. This raises the question of whether a body of “professional” voters, who are directly incentivized to vote informatively via instrumental payoffs that condition on their individual vote, can do better. Arguably, this latter case approximates representative democracy, where the probability that a legislator is re-elected depends on their individual voting record. Surprisingly, information is never consistently aggregated in representative democracy. That is, it is impossible to construct instrumental vote-contingent incentives that consistently aggregate information, since for any set of payoffs there are information structures (i.e. prior beliefs and precision of private signals) for which the committee decision is uninformative. This suggests that direct democracy, while fragile, may be the preferable institution for aggregating information. [PAPER]
A Rationale for Unanimity (2018)
(Joint with Yves Breitmoser)
Existing theoretical and experimental studies have established that unanimity is a poor decision rule for promoting information aggregation. Despite this, two-sided unanimity (consensus) is frequently used in committees making decisions on behalf of society. This paper shows that a consensus rule can facilitate truthful communication and optimal information aggregation when voters face consequences not only for the outcome of the collective decision, but also for how they personally voted. Theoretically, we show that majority rule suffers from a free-rider problem in this setting, since agents' votes are not always pivotal. Consensus mitigates free-riding since responsibility for the committee's decision is equally distributed across all agents. We test our predictions in a controlled laboratory experiment. As predicted, if consensus is required, subjects are more truthful, respond more to others' messages, and are ultimately more likely to make the optimal decision. Our work therefore provides a rationale for consensus rule in settings where committee members are held accountable, formally or informally, for their individual voting decisions. [PAPER New Version Dec. `18] [Sup. Appendix]
Refugees and Social Capital: Evidence from Northern Lebanon (2018)
(Joint with Anselm Hager)
Despite numerous studies on the social and political impact of refugees in Europe, we have very little systematic evidence on the impact of refugee settlement on social cohesion in the developing world. Using data gathered in Northern Lebanon, we show that increased salience of the "refugee crisis" decreases natives' trust and prosocial preferences toward refugees, suggesting a negative impact of mass refugee settlement. However, this negative impact is driven exclusively by respondents with no individual exposure to refugees. In fact, despite concerns that refugee settlements may result in local conflict, we find that individual proximity to refugees is positively correlated with trust towards refugees, and that proximity has a positive spillover effect on social capital towards other migrants. This implies that, while the refugee crisis may have had a negative impact on social cohesion, this negative impact is mitigated in areas where natives are in contact with refugees. [PAPER]
Optimal Decision Rules in Multilateral Aid Funds (2016)
(Joint with Axel Dreher and Jenny Simon)
When donor countries commit to allocate foreign aid via collective decision making, recipient countries are induced to compete over ex ante investments in good governance. Majority rule induces stronger competition between recipients, but limits aid to a strict subset of recipient countries, which implies that unanimity is often optimal. [PAPER; (updated Oct, 18')]
Social Polarization and Political Selection in Representative Democracies (2019)
(Joint with Dominik Duell)
We provide theoretical and experimental evidence that social polarization influences voting through an expressive channel, as voters become more likely to vote instinctively, and through an instrumental channel, as voters expect candidates to take decisions that are favorable to their partisan in-groups. Our results confirm that affective polarization decreases the electoral prospects of high-quality candidates, as voters become more likely to choose based on identity rather than ability. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 168, 132-65 [PAPER]
Dynamic Reform of Public Institutions: A Model of Motivated Agents and Collective Reputation (2018)
When motivated agents value the collective reputation of their place of employment, steady-state equilibria with both high and low aggregate motivation (reputation) in the mission-oriented sector exist. Since the effect of higher wages on motivation is negative for a high-reputation institution, but positive for a low-reputation institution, transitioning to a high-reputation steady state requires an initial wage increase to crowd motivated workers in, followed by a wage decrease to crowd non-motivated workers out. Journal of Public Economics, 168, pp. 94-108 [PAPER]
Voting in Large Committees with Disesteem Payoffs: A ‘state of the art’ model (2017)
(Joint with Rune Midjord and Tomás Rodríguez Barraquer)
If committee members receive idiosyncratic payoffs linked to the correctness of their individual vote, then the standard model predicts that a committee will always accept innovations with too high a probability. However, a natural variation of the model predicts that the committee may accept or reject the innovation with too high a probability depending on the relative size of the payoffs for correctly voting to accept/reject.
Games and Economic Behavior, 104, pp. 430–443 [PAPER, Distinguished CESifo Affiliate Award] [Supplementary Appendix]
Centralized Fiscal Spending by Supranational Unions (2017)
(Joint with Jenny Simon)
When countries with asymmetric incomes bargain over a central budget, an inefficient allocation results since bargaining power is linked to contributions. This link explains why EU resources are diverted to low-productivity projects in high-income countries.
Economica, 84(1), pp. 78-103. [PAPER; Klaus Liebscher Award for "papers dedicated to Economic and Monetary Union and European integration issues"]
A Note on Empathy in Games (2015)
(Joint with Jan Grohn and Steffen Huck)
We illustrate how some insights from the psychological literature on empathy can be incorporated into a standard utility framework, and demonstrate the potential interaction of beliefs and utility through the channel of empathy.
Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 108, pp. 383–388. [PAPER]
Get Out The Vote: How Policies That Encourage Voting Change Political Outcomes (2012)
I consider a joint model of voter turnout and candidates' choice of political positions and show that lowering the net expense of voting reduces political polarization.
Economics and Politics, 24 (3), pp. 346-373. [PAPER]
Institutionalizing Eurozone Exit: A modified NEWNEY approach (2012)
(Joint with Steffen Huck)
We argue that the Eurozone needs an institutional exit mechanism to enhance Eurozone stability, and propose modifications to the Dobbs' NEWNEY mechanism.
The Connection Between Turnout and Policy (2010)
Joint with Yves Breitmoser.
Joint with Kai Barron (UCL) and Tuomas Nurminen (Hanken).
Joint with Steffen Huck and Burkhard Schipper