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Huber and Shipan: Deliberate discretion

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

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


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."]




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)

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.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Huber, John (author)Shipan, Charles (author)Comparative PoliticsBureaucracyDelegation and Discretion

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