What Really Causes Gridlock in Congress?

Whenever Congress can’t reach a decision on an important issue, news anchors and pundits love to boil the problem down to personality flaws. Our legislators, we’re told, are acting childish, headstrong, or just plain stubborn. But what if there was a rational explanation for gridlock—and it meant elected representatives are actually rational, forward-thinking decision-makers?

Chicago Harris Assistant Professor Wioletta Dziuda recently coauthored a paper that used game theory to set up a bargaining scenario, similar to that used in Congress. Playing out that scenario, it became clear: political polarization was almost impossible to avoid. Her findings suggest new ways for legislators to prevent partisan standoffs in the future.

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