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23 March 2023 - 23 March 2023

4:00PM - 5:15PM


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Join us for this week's DREAM seminar with Professor B. Douglas Bernheim

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Durham University Business School

Who Controls the Agenda Controls the Polity

Joint with Nageeb Ali, Alex Bloedel and Silvia Console Battilana.

Guest panelist: Vincent Anesi and Debraj Ray.



This paper models legislative decision-making with an agenda setter who can propose policies sequentially, tailoring each proposal to the status quo that prevails after prior votes. Voters are sophisticated and the agenda setter cannot commit to her future proposals. Nevertheless, the agenda setter obtains her favorite outcome in every equilibrium regardless of the initial default policy. Central to our results is a new condition on preferences, manipulability, that holds in rich policy spaces, including spatial settings and distribution problems. Our results overturn the conventional wisdom that voter sophistication alone constrains an agenda setter’s power. 

About Prof Bernheim

B. Douglas Bernheim is the Edward Ames Edmonds Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics at Stanford University. After completing an A.B. in Economics from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he joined the Stanford faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1982. He moved to Northwestern University’s J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management in 1988, and to Princeton University in 1990, before returning to Stanford in 1994.  His awards and honors include election as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, election as a fellow of the Econometric Society, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. 

Professor Bernheim’s work has spanned a variety of fields, including public economics, behavioral economics, game theory, contract theory, industrial organization, political economy, and financial economics.  His notable contributions include the following: in the area of game theory, introducing and exploring the concepts of rationalizability (thereby helping to launch the field of epistemic game theory), coalition-proofness, and collective dynamic consistency (also known as renegotiation-proofness); in the area of incentive theory, introducing and exploring the concepts of common agency and menu auctions, and developing a theory of incomplete contracts; in the area of industrial organization, developing theories of multimarket contact and exclusive dealing; concerning social motives in economics, introducing and exploring the concept of strategic bequest motives, and developing theories of conformity, Veblen effects, and the equal division norm; developing and applying a framework for behavioral welfare economics; developing an economic theory of addictive behaviors; conducting the earliest economic analyses of financial education; and analyzing the conceptual foundations for Ricardian equivalence.

Professor Bernheim is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Senior Fellow of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. He is a former Chair of Stanford's Economics Department (2014-2021). He has also served as the Director of the Stanford Institute for Theoretical Economics (SITE), and as a Co-Editor of the American Economic Review and the Handbook of Behavioral Economics.