Delegation and Accountability


Justin Fox and Stuart V. Jordan

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Fox, Justin and Stuart V. Jordan (2011). Delegation and Accountability. The Journal of Politics, 73(3): 831-844. DOI: 10.1017/S0022381611000491.
Critics of legislative delegation to the bureaucracy worry that delegation undermines the accountability of politicians to voters. This article provides microfoundations for such concerns by examining a model of electoral agency in which legislators can either determine policy directly or delegate policymaking authority to an expert bureaucrat. In our model, when deciding whether to delegate, a politician must consider not only the policy consequences of his delegation decision but also the electoral consequences. We identify conditions under which delegation can provide politicians with an element of plausible deniability which they lack when they determine policy directly. In some circumstances, therefore, voters can be better off when legislators’ ability to delegate is restricted.
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