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Universalism in Congress

Emerson M.S. Niou and Peter C. Ordeshook
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 29, No. 2 (May, 1985), pp. 246-258
DOI: 10.2307/2111165
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111165
Page Count: 13
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Universalism in Congress
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Abstract

Several earlier attempts at explaining the norm of universalism in Congress rely on a simple expected value comparison between the rewards to legislators of the coalition of the whole as against the uncertainties associated with minimal winning coalitions. Such a comparison, however, fails to model directly the decision processes within a legislature--the game legislators play--and, thus, fails to explain why it is in no member's self-interest to defect from such a norm. Further, the corresponding explanations for universalism can accommodate inefficiency in legislation--pork barrel--only with additional and ad hoc assumptions or with appeals to secondary group norms. We offer here an alternative model based on constituency motivations that establishes universalism as an optimal individual choice and which accommodates inefficient legislation directly.

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