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Deliberate Discretion?


  • 18 b/w illus. 18 tables
  • Page extent: 304 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.62 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 320/.6
  • Dewey version: 21
  • LC Classification: JF229 .H833 2002
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Separation of powers
    • Political planning
    • Bureaucracy
    • Law and politics
    • Comparative government

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521817448 | ISBN-10: 0521817447)

DOI: 10.2277/0521817447

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published October 2002

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

 (Stock level updated: 02:15 GMT, 11 February 2016)


The laws that legislatures adopt provide the most important and definitive opportunity elected politicians have to define public policy. But the ways politicians use laws to shape policy varies considerably across polities. In some cases, legislatures adopt detailed and specific laws in efforts to micromanage policy-making processes. In others, they adopt general and vague laws that leave the executive and bureaucrats substantial autonomy to fill in the policy details. What explains these differences across political systems, and how do they matter? The authors address this issue by developing and testing a comparative theory of how laws shape bureaucratic autonomy. Drawing on a range of evidence from advanced parliamentary democracies and the American states, they argue that particular institutional forms have a systematic and predictable effect on how politicians use laws to shape the policy making process.

• Develops a comparative theory that explains how the nature of the political setting affects the way that politicians delegate to bureaucrats • Tests a theory of delegation both across different countries and across the American states • Systematically analyzes the nature of legislative statutes themselves to determine how laws are designed to influence policy making processes


1. Laws, bureaucratic autonomy and the comparative study of delegation; 2. Rational delegation or helpless abdication? The relationship between bureaucrats and politicians; 3. Statutes as blueprints for policy making processes; 4. A comparative theory of legislative discretion and the policy making process; 5. Legislation, agency policy making and Medicaid in Michigan; 6. The design of laws across separation of powers systems; 7. The design of laws across parliamentary systems; 8. Laws, institutions, and policy making processes.


'This is a remarkable book. It is embedded firmly in the well-established 'new institutionalist' literature on comparative politics. And it extends a well-recognized debate over how (and how carefully) elected politicians delegate authority to unelected bureaucrats. Yet, for all its pedigree, it is original, innovative, and important. It is bold in its theoretical scope, impressive for its painstaking attention to empirical detail, and, for all that, a pleasure to read … This will be the most important book in delegation since Kiewiet and McCubbins's The Logic of Delegation a decade ago.' Japanese Journal of Political Science

'… this is an outstanding book that should be read by anyone interested in legislative-bureaucratic relations.' West European Politics

'… remarkable … This book asks a very crucial, yet little examined question …'. Journal of Public Policy

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