Incentives and competition for information in Congress
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Policymakers need a wide array of information for multiple purposes. Acquiring information often is costly, so it is assumed that incentives must be provided to overcome these costs and stimulate information gathering. It is further assumed that increasing the number of actors engaged in acquiring information creates free-rider problems. In 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives created a select committee to address energy and environment issues, but did not give that committee legislative authority. The new committee could not compete with others for the ability to write or amend legislation, so its presence should not have changed the standing committee’s information gathering patterns. In fact, committees did alter their hearing patterns in response to the select committee’s work. Information has jurisdictional and reputational value to policymakers in addition to the incentives it can help them obtain, and policymakers will act to acquire information even without explicit incentives to do so.