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Expertise, Subversion, and Bureaucratic Discretion


  • Sean Gailmard


This article examines a legislature's delegation of policy-making authority to an imperfectly controlled, expert bureaucrat. The legislature can reduce the bureaucrat's expertise advantage through costly investigations of its own before delegating. Further, the bureaucrat is granted discretionary bounds by the legislature, but can subvert legislative dictates by stepping beyond them at some cost. I analyze the interaction of preference divergence, investigation cost to the legislature, and subversion cost to the bureaucrat on the decision to delegate. The model shows that, because of the equilibrium effect of subversion on discretion, bureaucrats will want subversion of legislative dictates to be difficult, while legislators want it to be relatively easy. It also highlights an indirect effect between preference divergence and discretion: preference divergence leads the legislature to become more expert on policy matters, which leads it to delegate less. Copyright 2002, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Sean Gailmard, 2002. "Expertise, Subversion, and Bureaucratic Discretion," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(2), pages 536-555, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jleorg:v:18:y:2002:i:2:p:536-555

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Heyes, Anthony & Kapur, Sandeep, 2009. "Enforcement missions: Targets vs budgets," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 129-140, September.
    2. Naseer, Shaheen & Heine, Klaus, 2017. "Bureaucratic Identity and the Shape of Public Policy: A Game Theoretic Analysis," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168144, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Christoph Ossege, 2015. "Driven by Expertise and Insulation? The Autonomy of European Regulatory Agencies," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 3(1), pages 101-113.
    4. Callander, Steven & Kreibiel, Keith, 2012. "Gridlock and Delegation in a Changing World," Research Papers 2100, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    5. Marco Sorge, 2015. "Lobbying (strategically appointed) bureaucrats," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 171-189, June.
    6. Grossman, Gene M. & Helpman, Elhanan, 2008. "Separation of powers and the budget process," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 407-425, April.
    7. Montagnes, B, Pablo & Wolton, Stephane, 2015. "Rule Versus Discretion: Regulatory Uncertainty, Firm Investment, and the Ally Principle," MPRA Paper 65047, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Tsung-Sheng Tsai & Yasunari Tamada, 2004. "Allocation of Decision-Making Authority with Principal's Reputation Concerns," Econometric Society 2004 Far Eastern Meetings 701, Econometric Society.
    9. Tamada, Yasunari & Tsai, Tsung-Sheng, 2009. "The Allocation of Decision-Making Authority when Principal has Reputation Concerns," MPRA Paper 20225, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Brandsma, Gijs Jan, 2013. "Bending the rules: Arrangements for sharing technical and political information between the EU institutions," European Integration online Papers (EIoP), European Community Studies Association Austria (ECSA-A), vol. 17, July.
    11. Peter Grajzl, 2011. "A property rights approach to legislative delegation," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 177-200, June.

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