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A Theory of Political Control and Agency Discretion

Randall L. Calvert, Mathew D. McCubbins and Barry R. Weingast
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 33, No. 3 (Aug., 1989), pp. 588-611
DOI: 10.2307/2111064
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111064
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
A Theory of Political Control and Agency Discretion
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Abstract

A major issue in the study of American politics is the extent to which electoral discipline also constrains bureaucrats. In practice, executive agencies operate with considerable independence from elected officials. However, the entire process of policy execution is a game among legislators, the chief executive, and bureaucratic agents. It includes the initial delegation of authority, the choice of policy alternatives, and opportunities for oversight and control. A simple model of this process demonstrates an important distinction between bureaucratic authority and bureaucratic discretion. Indeed, in its simplest form, the model predicts a world in which bureaucrats are the sole active participants in policymaking, but in which the choice of policy is traceable entirely to the preferences of elected officials. More realistically, the model leads to a precise definition of agency discretion. These conclusions have practical applications for both students and reformers of policymaking.

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