Racing the Clock: Deadlines, Conflict, and Negotiation in Lawmaking

Daniel A. Farber
University of California, Berkeley – School of Law

February 7, 2016

UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2728895


Deadlines are a ubiquitous feature of lawmaking in contexts such diverse settings as agency rulemakings, federal appropriations, and international negotiations. Despite the expectation that these deadlines will drive conflicting parties toward agreement or overcome bureaucratic inertia, their impact on decision making is mixed, often producing only modest improvements in speed, and perhaps sometimes none at all. On the downside, deadlines can sometimes reduce the quality of decisions or encourage brinksmanship when missing a deadline would have draconian consequences. If there is a case for deadlines, then, it is an uneasy one. Game theory suggests some possibilities for to increase the effectiveness of deadlines as action-forcing strategies, such as improving information sharing between actors and providing enforcement mechanisms for negotiated outcomes.

Racing the Clock- Deadlines, Conflict, and Negotiation in Lawmaking

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