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Bureaucratic Capacity, Delegation, and Political Reform

  • JOHN D. HUBER (a1) and NOLAN McCARTY (a2)

We analyze a model of delegation and policymaking in polities where bureaucratic capacity is low. Our analysis suggests that low bureaucratic capacity diminishes incentives for bureaucrats to comply with legislation, making it more difficult for politicians to induce bureaucrats to take actions that politicians desire. Consequently, when bureaucratic capacity is low, standard principles in the theoretical literature on delegation no longer hold. We also use the model to examine the issue of political reform in polities with low bureaucratic capacity. The model indicates that politicians in such polities will be trapped in a situation whereby they have little incentive to undertake reforms of either the bureaucracy or other institutions (such as courts) that are crucial for successful policymaking.

Corresponding author
John D. Huber is Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, NY 10025 (
Nolan McCarty is Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540 (
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BawnKathleen. 1995Political Control versus Expertise: Congressional Choice About Administration Procedures.” American Political Science Review 89 (1): 6273.

BendorJonathan, and AdamMeirowitz. 2004Spatial Models of Delegation.” American Political Science Review. 98 (2): 293310.

BesleyTimothy, and JohnMcLaren. 1993Taxes and Bribery: The Role of Wage Incentives.” Economic Journal 103: 11941.

EpsteinDavid, and SharynO'Halloran. 1999 Delegating Powers. New York: Cambridge University Press.

EvansPeter, and JamesRauch. 1999Bureaucracy and Growth: A Cross-National Analysis of the Effects of ‘Weberian’ State Structures on Economic Growth.” American Sociological Review 64: 74865.

GeddesBarbara. 1990Building ‘State’ Autonomy in Brazil, 1930– 64.” Comparative Politics 22 (2): 21735.

McCourtWilly, and NazarSola. 1999Using Training to Promote Civil Service Reform: A Tanzanian Local Government Case Study.” Public Administration and Development 19: 6375.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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