We present a laboratory experiment to study the effect of communication on durable coalitions – coalitions that support the same allocation from one period to the next. We study a bargaining setting where the status quo policy is determined by the policy implemented in the previous period. Our main experimental treatment is the opportunity for subjects to negotiate with one another through unrestricted cheap-talk communication before a proposal is made and comes to a vote. We compare committees with no communication, committees where communication is public and messages are observed by all committee members, and committees where communication is private and any committee member can send private messages to any other committee member. We find that the opportunity to communicate has a significant impact on outcomes and coalitions. When communication is public, there are more universal coalitions and fewer majoritarian coalitions. With private communication, there are more majoritarian coalitions and fewer universal coalitions. With either type of communication coalitions occur more frequently and last longer than with no communication. The content of communication is correlated with coalition type and with the formation and dissolution of durable coalitions. These findings suggest a coordination role for communication that varies with the mode of communication.One might infer that realized communication among parties, whether via open public communication or through private communication channels is superior to no communication. It appears that the health of the coalition is assisted by open and transparent communication.
Sounds like a thorough endorsement of the First Amendment and the marketplace of ideas.