NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Trading Votes for Votes. A Decentralized Matching Algorithm

Alessandra Casella, Thomas Palfrey

NBER Working Paper No. 21645
Issued in October 2015
NBER Program(s):Public Economics, Political Economy

Vote-trading is common practice in committees and group decision-making. Yet we know very little about its properties. Inspired by the similarity between the logic of sequential rounds of pairwise vote-trading and matching algorithms, we explore three central questions that have parallels in the matching literature: (1) Does a stable allocation of votes always exists? (2) Is it reachable through a decentralized algorithm? (3) What welfare properties does it possess? We prove that a stable allocation exists and is always reached in a finite number of trades, for any number of voters and issues, for any separable preferences, and for any rule on how trades are prioritized. Its welfare properties however are guaranteed to be desirable only under specific conditions. A laboratory experiment confirms that stability has predictive power on the vote allocation achieved via sequential pairwise trades, but lends only weak support to the dynamic algorithm itself.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21645

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