Divided Committees and Strategic Vagueness

(with Colin Krainin)

Recent research suggests a number of reasons for the strategic use of vagueness in committees: vagueness can lubricate disputes, ensure legitimacy, and allow for future flexibility. Missing from this literature is that disagreements among differently biased committee members may produce lower levels of strategic vagueness due to committee-member bargaining. In this paper, we examine monetary policymaking committees and present a simple agenda setting model. Counter to previous theories, we show that delegating decision making to a committee with heterogeneous biases is associated with more precise language than committees with alike biases. Using data from the U.S. central bank committee (FOMC) during Arthur Burns' tenure (1970-1978), we test our theory and find evidence that the FOMC uses more certainty language in committee meetings when the committee chair and median member are opposed.

DateFile DescriptionAttached files
28 December 2020
Divided Committees and Distortionary Vagueness