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Minority Rights in Majoritarian Institutions


Roust, Kevin A. (2005) Minority Rights in Majoritarian Institutions. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/FMRZ-X496.


The House of Representatives is, fundamentally, a majoritarian institution. A simple majority can do anything it wants, even changing the entire rules of the House through the Constitutional provision that "Each House shall determine the Rules of its Proceedings." Despite this power, the House has maintained extensive parliamentary rights for the minority party. This work examines why the Majority may allow the Minority a continued role in lawmaking.

The historical development of the House rules is examined and compared to current practices in the House. This leads to an understanding of how the House became the institution it is today. The House rules evolved slowly over its first century, until finally arriving at the surprisingly stable set of modern rules. Although some of the changes the House has made appear strange at first sight, the models developed here explain many of them.

Having identified key features of the rules of the House, a model of a legislature is constructed. Consideration of bills can be described as endogenous agenda formation -- each action that the legislature takes is proposed by a legislator. This process is modeled as a game, where the legislature's rules describe an agenda tree. Even minimal assumptions about the rationality of legislators provide predictions about how bills will be modified by the amendment tree.

These floor consideration models, however, only predict what bills the legislature will pass for a given set of rules. To understand how the rules of the House developed, the modeled legislature is permitted to choose its rules (which amendment tree it will use). If the bill has been exogenously identified, so the legislature is choosing a special rule for the bill, the amendment tree it adopts will restrict the proposers. If the bill will be proposed endogenously, the legislature will adopt standing rules resembling those of the House.

Further predictions are generated by combining this model with specific assumptions: depending on the type of issue being considered, certain rules should never be adopted. This analysis suggests that the House generally does not consider one-dimensional or distributive issues, but instead must deal with multi-faceted issues.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:endogenous agenda; endogenous rules; House of Representatives; spatial model
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Alvarez, R. Michael
Thesis Committee:
  • Kiewiet, D. Roderick (chair)
  • Plott, Charles R.
  • Border, Kim C.
  • Alvarez, R. Michael
Defense Date:16 May 2005
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05232005-154856
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1970
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:27 May 2005
Last Modified:04 Jun 2024 21:44

Thesis Files

PDF (RoustDissertation.pdf) - Final Version
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