In this controversial book, Keith Krehbiel investigates and casts doubt upon a view of Congress held by many academics, journalists, and members of the lay public: that Congress is organized primarily to facilitate logrolling or "gains from trade" between legislators. The author puts forward an alternative "informational" theory that, unlike previous formal theories, highlights institutional needs and individual incentives for acquiring policy expertise. Using games with incomplete information, Krehbiel derives a set of unique and testable predictions about the organization of legislatures -- including the composition of committees and the procedures under which legislation is considered.
Krehbiel's creative illustrations and nonmathematical presentation of formal theories make this book accessible to a diverse set of readers. The political relevance and testability of games with incomplete information will be appreciated by game theorists and economists, while the book's findings make it essential reading for political scientists who study American politics, political institutions, or democratic legislatures.
Politicians and pundits alike have complained that the divided governments of the last decades have led to legislative gridlock. Not so, argues Keith Krehbiel, who advances the provocative theory that divided government actually has little effect on legislative productivity. Gridlock is in fact the order of the day, occurring even when the same party controls the legislative and executive branches. Meticulously researched and anchored to real politics, Krehbiel argues that the pivotal vote on a piece of legislation is not the one that gives a bill a simple majority, but the vote that allows its supporters to override a possible presidential veto or to put a halt to a filibuster. This theory of pivots also explains why, when bills are passed, winning coalitions usually are bipartisan and supermajority sized. Offering an incisive account of when gridlock is overcome and showing that political parties are less important in legislative-executive politics than previously thought, Pivotal Politics remakes our understanding of American lawmaking.