Divided Committees and Distortionary Vagueness
(with Colin Krainin - last updated September 2019)
Delegating political authority is commonplace: voters delegate to politicians, politicians delegate to committees, and governments delegate to outside agencies. Scholars often study information transmission associated with delegation from the perspective of the principal and assume that the agent is honest. Yet agents sometimes have an incentive to distort the truth. In this paper, we show that delegating decision making to a committee, subcommittee, or agency with an agenda-setting chair reduces incentives by the agent to distort information, or distortionary vagueness. We also find that when the committee chair and the median committee member have opposing preferences, the committee transmits more precise information than when the chair and median committee member have aligning preferences. Using data from the Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policy committee of the U.S. central bank, we show some evidence in support of our theory.