My thesis is titled “A Voice without a Veto: Consensus-building through Inclusion of Stakeholders” (available on SSRN: Voice without a Veto) and uses the EITM (Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models) methodology. I study whether including a broad group of stakeholders in policy advisory commissions helps build consensus. It may seem that including interested parties with conflicting preferences would increase conflict, but advisory commissions reach unanimity with a surprisingly high frequency. I propose two reasons why diversity can increase agreement. First, ideologically diverse parties from a variety of backgrounds can produce a greater variety of policy-relevant knowledge, increasing the valence of a proposal. Second, in a diverse commission, a proposal without broad appeal will lead some commission members to issue dissenting opinions, which reduce the government’s willingness to follow the majority recommendation. I show in a formal model that both of these factors help increase consensus by incentivizing commission members to coordinate on a policy recommendation that all actors weakly prefer to the government’s outside option. To test the model’s predictions, I use a novel, hand-collected data set of 2,705 Swedish commissions of inquiry that completed their inquiries between 1990 and 2018. Swedish governments appoint commissions for all significant legislative initiatives, so the data minimize selection bias. As the theory predicts, I find that increasing stakeholder representation in broadly representative commissions increases consensus. The last chapter of this thesis studies the preconditions that make it possible for this institution to flourish. These may explain variation in the appointment of broadly representative commissions under different governments.
Results from my data set have been used in a white paper published by SNS (Centre for Business and Policy Studies, the largest think tank in Scandinavia) here: SNS Research Brief 59. In addition, Svenska Dagbladet (third largest daily in Sweden) has published a debate article and editorial based on the SNS report: SvD debate article Oct 10 2019 SvD Editorial Nov 25 2019. These articles discuss the importance of commissions of inquiry as an antidote for current political polarization. I also have several working papers and publications, which can be found in my CV. In general, I am interested in questions related to deliberation, consensus, and democratic governance. I am planning a book on the bureaucratic and legislative origins of consensus democracy.