My research is in the field of comparative politics and political economy, with a focus on legislative and policy-making institutions. I am currently working in three substantive areas. First, I study the inclusion of stakeholders and experts in the governmental policy-making process and the conditions under which such inclusion helps different parties negotiate agreement. Second, I study how different types of communication (such as deliberation vs. purely informative communication) affect the likelihood of pro-social collective decisions. Third, I study the development of formal and informal institutions used to negotiate agreement during the policy-making process. In each of these areas, I use rational choice and behavioral models, statistical analysis, and laboratory experiments to tease out mechanisms and uncover causal relationships at the micro level. My research has been published in political science and economics journals.
My dissertation examines whether governments can build broad consensus on policy by soliciting advise from independent commissions of experts and stakeholders. The dissertation uses the Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM) method, in which a formal model is used to generate empirical implications, which are then tested. The dissertation is in a manuscript format, with the two main chapters forming my job market paper.
The first chapter presents a formal model of advisory commissions. The model shows that the institutional features of advisory commissions create a strong incentive for negotiating agreement across different interests. These features include separating decision-making from advising, providing policy-relevant information, requiring the commission to deliver a report with a single policy recommendation, and allowing dissenting members to register their disagreement. Advisory commissions therefore differ from committees and similar types of decision-making bodies in that the likelihood of consensus increases, rather than decreases, in the ideological diversity of participants. In other types of settings, the inclusion of many parties with different interests adds veto players who can delay or prevent decision-making. A related result is that governments are more likely to appoint ideologically diverse commissions when legislative parties are more polarized.
The second chapter uses hand-collected data on 2,705 advisory commissions from Sweden to test the predictions of the model. The data cover a 29-year period from 1990 to 2018. I use Swedish data because of a longstanding norm of appointing advisory commissions for almost all significant legislative initiatives. This reduces sample bias in the selection of policy issues. The statistical results match the model’s predictions and data patterns from other countries.
The final chapter documents the dramatic decline of broadly inclusive commissions with representatives from all major political parties, which governments in Sweden have used to negotiate consensus with the opposition and policy stakeholders for nearly a century. I identify three potential reasons for this decline. These include a weakening of corporatist arrangements between the government, industry associations and labor unions, an increase in the number of parliamentary parties, and an increase in the dimensionality of policy conflict. This chapter is mostly descriptive and presents hypotheses for future research.
The dissertation makes three contributions.
First, it demonstrates that advisory commissions are a unique institution, in which preference heterogeneity can overcome polarization rather than cause gridlock. While previous literature has noted that commissions reach consensus more often that would be expected given their representativeness, it has not provided an explanation for this phenomenon. Second, the dissertation presents a micro-level explanation of a mechanism that Scandinavian democracies have used to negotiate agreement on policy during times of political polarization. The dissertation therefore contributes to the understanding of the institutional development of Scandinavian consensus democracies. Third, the dissertation provides evidence that the Swedish policy-making process is not as consensus-oriented as before, and presents several potential explanations for this decline. These explanations provide preconditions which may need to be met for commissions to be effective in negotiating agreement.
I have published results from my data in a SNS (Centre for Business and Policy Studies) policy brief (SNS Research Brief 59 ) and in an article in Scandinavian Political Studies (online). The political implications of the research have been discussed in a debate article and editorial in the Svenska Dagbladet (third largest daily in Sweden) (SvD debate article Oct 10 2019 SvD Editorial Nov 25 2019). I also have several working papers and publications in both economics and political science journals, which are listed below: