Federal advisory commissions in an economic model of representative democracy
This paper developed an economic theory of representative democracy to explain the use of outside advisory commissions in collective decisionmaking. In this model, legislators maximize net political support expected from supplying legislation to consumer-voters and producer-voters. Outside advisory bodies were viewed as vehicles for enhancing net political support, particularly that received from special-interest groups. By helping special-interest groups overcome the free-rider problem, advisory bodies increased the ability of special interests to provide political support in return for favorable legislation. And by providing a mechanism for safeguarding favorable legislation, advisory bodies increased the durability, and hence the value, of this legislation to the favored special interest. Thus, advisory bodies increased the ability and the willingness of special-interests to provide political support in return for favorable legislation. Implications regarding the issues to be addressed by advisory bodies and the structure of those advisory bodies were examined using a sample of federal advisory groups. These groups were classified into four types based on the distributions of costs and benefits for issues under consideration. Differences across the four types of advisory bodies conformed largely with a priori expectations regarding the frequency with which certain types of issues were addressed as well as their composition, tenure, and size. As expected, a majority of the advisory group focused on issues where the costs were spread throughout the population but the benefits were narrowly focused, typically on members of an individual industry. Public membership on these special-interest advisory bodies was rare; in only five percent of the cases could even one public member be identified. Special-interest advisory groups with no public members were found to be more effective guardians of legislation as measured by the group's tenure and size. These groups on average were significantly more likely to be ongoing (rather than ad hoc) and were significantly smaller than other advisory groups. Based on this evidence, advisory bodies did not appear to have been aimed at correcting the special-interest bias in representative democracy. If anything, these bodies have served to enhance the influence of special interests in collective choice. The data suggest special-interest groups have, to a large extent, been appointed to or have ‘captured’ those bodies in which they would be expected to have the most abiding interest — issues involving narrowly focused benefits but widespread costs. To be sure, some advisory bodies have been formed to consider issues involving narrow costs but widespread benefits. But such groups have been few, representing less than four percent of all advisory bodies in the sample. Moreover, in terms of tenure and size, they appear less effective than the groups addressing special-interest issues. Of course, one could argue that advisory bodies serve largely a ceremonial role, having little impact on public choice. Therefore, distinctions between bodies with and without public membership are largely irrelevant because neither group matters. But if these advisory bodies did not matter, than we should not expect to find systematic and predictable differences in the kinds of issues explored or in the composition and structure of these bodies. Copyright Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1987
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Oster, Sharon, 1982. "The Strategic Use of Regulatory Investment by Industry Sub-Groups," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(4), pages 604-18, October.
- G. William Schwert, 1977. "Public Regulation of National Securities Exchanges: A Test of the Capture Hypothesis," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 8(1), pages 128-150, Spring.
- Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1982. "The Interaction between Research and Policy: The Case of Unemployment Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 237-41, May.
- Tollison, Robert D, 1982. "Rent Seeking: A Survey," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 35(4), pages 575-602.
- Jarrell, Gregg A, 1978. "The Demand for State Regulation of the Electric Utility Industry," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 269-95, October.
- Keith Poole & Thomas Romer, 1985. "Patterns of political action committee contributions to the 1980 campaigns for the United States House of Representatives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 63-111, January.
- Morrison, Steven A & Newman, Robert J, 1983. "Hours of Operation Restrictions and Competition among Retail Firms," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 21(1), pages 107-14, January.
- Landes, William M & Posner, Richard A, 1975.
"The Independent Judiciary in an Interest-Group Perspective,"
Journal of Law and Economics,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 875-901, December.
- William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1975. "The Independent Judiciary in an Interest-Group Perspective," NBER Working Papers 0110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Eccles, Mary & Freeman, Richard B, 1982.
"What] Another Minimum Wage Study?,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 72(2), pages 226-32, May.
- Nelson, Randy A, 1982. "An Empirical Test of the Ramsey Theory and Stigler-Peltzman Theory of Public Utility Pricing," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 20(2), pages 277-90, April.
- George J. Stigler, 1971. "The Theory of Economic Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 2(1), pages 3-21, Spring.
- Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
- Dennis Mueller & Peter Murrell, 1986. "Interest groups and the size of government," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 48(2), pages 125-145, January.
- Oster, Sharon M, 1980. "An Analysis of Some Causes of Interstate Differences in Consumer Regulations," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(1), pages 39-54, January.
- Becker, Gary S, 1983. "A Theory of Competition among Pressure Groups for Political Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 371-400, August.
- Holcombe, Randall G, 1980. "An Empirical Test of the Median Voter Model," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(2), pages 260-74, April.
- Jordan, William A, 1972. "Producer Protection, Prior Market Structure and the Effects of Government Regulation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 151-76, April.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:54:y:1987:i:1:p:41-62. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Guenther Eichhorn)or (Christopher F. Baum)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.