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Boston University School of Law




Trust in the legislative arena does not flow from altruism. It rests on two related foundations: personal interactions and rational incentives. Legislators must engage with each other over at least a two-year term and usually far longer. Their encounters reflect the dynamic of continuing players rather than one-time participants. Thus, failure to carry out commitments chills the possibility of future advantageous agreements with the aggrieved party. Moreover, the process of shared experience and personal interaction can create friendships that make the foundation for trust personal as well as professional. Further, each House of Congress has many of the characteristics of a small and closed society. A legislator who reneges on commitments outside the bounds permitted by that House's culture suffers a reputation loss that affects the ability to deal with other legislators not directly affected by the particular breach.

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