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Huber and Shipan: Deliberate discretion

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Understanding
Bureaucracy

Huber and Shipan. 2002. Deliberate discretion: The institutional foundations of bureaucratic autonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CHAPTER 2: LIT REVIEW

CHAPTER 3: STATUTES AS BLUEPRINTS (i.e. a description of Y)

Main point: Legislative statutes vary (Y) in their level of detail (i.e. in the level of discretion that they assign to the bureaucracy). Longer statutes contain greater detail (less discretion). Longer statutes generally contain more policy-specific language (i.e. what to do) than procedural language (how to do it). In Europe, procedural language is even less common than in the US.

FINDINGS: US STATE-LEVEL DATA: Medicaid managed care statutes.

Y: Measurement: Word counts of statutes (pg 45). [What? Does a more detailed recipe really produce a better cake? I guess it means you'll have a more consistent outcome, at least]. Words within a statute are characterized as "general," "client issues" [defines participants and the nature of policy coverage], "provider issues" [who will provide a service, providers' responsibilities and rights, how providers are compensated], and "miscellaneous" [definitions, quality assurance, financial, etc].

There's a high correlation of word length in the different issue categories. [If there are lots of "client words," there will also be lots of "provider words" and "miscellaneous words."]

FINDINGS: EUROPEAN LABOR LAWS

Similar.

CRITICISM: MAJOR THREATS TO USING 'WORD LENGTH' AS AN INDICATOR:

  • If a legislature writes an omnibus bill, then it will look like they are being more specific--when in fact they are covering more issues.
  • Different languages tend towards different numbers of words.
  • Different legislators are inclined towards different levels of wordiness.

CHAPTER 4: THE THEORY (i.e. a description of the Xs)

SUFFICIENT Xs (The main meat of the theory)

X1: Policy uncertainty. As policy issues become more technically complex (X1), legislators gain an incentive to delegate more discretion (Y) to bureaucratic experts.

X2: Policy conflict. As the policy preferences of politicians conflict more with bureaucrats' preferences (X2), politicians gain an incentive to delegate less discretion (Y) to bureaucrats.

SOME NECESSARY Xs (incidental to the theory)

  • Legislative capacity: How costly is it for legislators to draft detailed legislation? (Information costs, other political and institutional variables).
  • Bargaining environment: Who must consent to the passage of legislation (e.g. Westminster vs consociational, pres/parl, etc.)
  • Bureaucratic environment: Does the political system enable politicians to control bureaucrats without resorting to detailed legislation (e.g. LDP presumably)? [If so, politicians may include less detailed language.] Or does the political system enable non-politicians to overrule bureaucratic decisions (e.g. the courts)? [If so, politicians may include more detailed language.]

MAIN POINT OF CH 4 (pg 107):

  1. Politicians delegate less discretion when (a) policy conflict increases or (b) legislative capacity increases.
  2. Policy conflict and legislative capacity can interact (especially is legislative capacity is generally low) or not (especially is legislative capacity is generally high).
  3. Politicians delegate more discretion when they have other means of achieving policy objectives (e.g. other ways of controlling bureaucrats).
  4. These results hold in both pres and parl.
  5. In presidential systems, bicameral conflict leads to more discretion.