Strategic Obfuscation through Bureaucratic Delegation
Martin, Lanny W.
Doctor of Philosophy
In this dissertation, I develop and test a theory of when politicians delegate more policy making responsibility to bureaucrats. Since minimizing blame for bad policy outcomes and claiming credit for good ones is a constant concern for politicians, the aim of reelection means it is preferable for politicians to distance themselves from policies that will be unpopular. For this reason, delegating power to bureaucrats has long been suspected of letting politicians shift responsibility for policies voters do not prefer. I move forward our understanding of this feature of democratic politics with a detailed formal theoretical model, from which I derive new empirical expectations. I test these in the contexts of both Western and Eastern Europe, drawing on unique features of the European Union policy harmonization process to build large cross-national datasets of policy making. I use the theoretical framework to explain how political corruption in Central and Eastern Europe, combined with political control over bureaucrats, gives politicians an incentive to make policy more discretionary to obscure political responsibility. Then, I apply the theory to explain how coalition governments in Western European parliamentary democracies use bureaucratic delegation to achieve cooperation between ruling parties discreetly, to avoid attracting voters' attention to compromise policies. The findings reveal support for the theoretical model and new insights on how the dynamics of coalition government and the cabinet's policy prerogatives in parliamentary democracies affect the transparency of the policy-making process, opportunities for corruption, and political control of policy outcomes.
Accountability; Delegation; Comparative politics