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An Experimental Study of the Efficiency of Unanimity Rule and Majority Rule



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An Experimental Study of the Efficiency of Unanimity Rule and Majority Rule Keith Dougherty Brian Pitts Justin Moeller Robi Ragan Version 0 4 March 24 2009 Abstract We test several claims about the relationship between unanimity rule and Pareto optimality Buchanan and Tullock 1962 Mueller 2003 and other scholars argue that unanimity rule is more capable of producing Pareto optimal outcomes than other voting rules such as majority rule because unanimity rule passes an alternative only if it makes everyone better off Majority rule can pass alternatives that make some individuals worse off Dougherty and Edward 2008 in contrast claim that majority rule is at least as likely to select Pareto optimal outcomes as unanimity rule in finite games if proposals are random sincere or strategic We test the two sets of conjectures in a two dimensional framework using laboratory experiments Our results suggest 1 majority rule enters the Pareto set more quickly than unanimity rule 2 majority rule leaves the Pareto set at the same rate as unanimity rule and 3 majority rule is more likely to select a Pareto optimal outcome than unanimity rule in the final round of play Our results also suggest that proposers do not behave observationallyrational in the final round and complete information does not affect the primary result All authors Department of Political Science University of Georgia Athens GA 30602 Corresponding author 706 542 2989 dougherk uga edu 1 Introduction Decision making bodies often adjust and sometimes re adjust their voting thresholds between majority rule and unanimity rule1 For example the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe recently proposed reducing the unanimity rule requirement in the Council of Ministers to a qualified majority in 26 issue areas The Financial Accounting Standards Board FASB reduced its voting threshold from a supermajority to a majority in 1977 only to increase it back to another supermajority rule in 1991 King 1994 Each of these



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