McCubbins, Noll, and Weingast: Structure and process, politics and policy
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.
McCubbins, Noll, and Weingast. 1989. Structure and process, politics and policy: Administrative Arrangements and the political control o. Virgina Law Review 75:431-82.
SUMMARY [from a class handout]: In the same line of "Administrative Procedures as Instruments of Political Control," the authors state that structure and process are necessary strategies that politicians use to control bureaucratic behavior. To support this argument, McCubbins et al. use the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a case study.
Two main assumptions:
- Elected political officials may differ over their desired policy outcomes. Therefore, structure and process can be viewed as mechanisms to limit politicians' opportunism (when a coalition is dissolved).
- The problem of "history dependence" or "reactive enforcement" in legislative processes makes administrative procedures necessary strategies to control bureaucracy behavior. Any agency, in general, will not reproduce the policy outcome that was sought by the winning coalition.
STRUCTURE AND PROCESS vs OVERSIGHT
- Oversight has a limitaion: it is costly (financially and politically). Fire alarm is an option (it is cheaper than police patrol); however, it has limitations too. Fire alarm depends of the reputation and credibility of politicians when they threaten to punish an agency. Sometimes, agencies may not regard threats of punishment as credible.
- Manipulating structure and process, on the other hand, has two advantages: A) it creates a decisional environment that causes the agency to be responsive to the constituency interests that were represented in the enacting coalition. B) It delays agency policymaking, and delays affect bureaucratic behavior. Agencies thus move slowly and publicly, giving politicians time to act before the status quo is changed.
PREVENTING THE COURTS FROM INFLUENCING POLICY MORE THAN CONGRESS
Federal courts as third actors that can affect policy outcomes: Vague legislative mandates and weak standards for judicial review give courts an opportunity to shape policy as they see it. The risk is that courts' intervention can affect the "ideal" outcome that politicians (the winning coalition) desire. Therefore, structure and process can work as mechanisms that limit judicial decisions.
Research by the same authors
- Cox and McCubbins: Legislative leviathan
- Cox and McCubbins: Setting the agenda
- Cox and McCubbins: The Institutional Determinants of Economic Policy Outcomes
- Cox and McCubbins: Toward a theory of legislative rules changes
- Cox, Kousser, and McCubbins: Party Power or Preferences? Quasi-Experimental Evidence from American State Legislatures
- Cox, Kousser, and McCubbins: What polarizes parties
- De Figueiredo and Weingast: The rationality of fear
- Diaz-Cayeros, Magaloni, and Weingast: Tragic brilliance
- Greif, Milgrom, and Weingast: Coordination, commitment, and enforcement
- Kiewiet and McCubbins: Appropriations decisions as a bilateral bargaining game between president and Congress
- Kiewiet and McCubbins: Presidential influence on Congressional appropriations decisions
- Kiewiet and McCubbins: The Logic of Delegation
- Lupia and McCubbins: The Democratic Dilemma
- McCubbins and Schwartz: Congressional oversight overlooked
- McCubbins and Thies: As a matter of factions
- McCubbins, Noll, and Weingast: Administrative procedures as instruments of political control
- Milgrom, North, and Weingast: The role of institutions in the revival of trade
- Noll: Economics perspectives on the politics of regulation
- Popkin: The reasoning voter
- Weingast and Marshall: The industrial organization of Congress
- Weingast and Moran: Bureaucratic discretion or Congressional control
- Weingast: The economic role of political institutions
Research on similar subjects
McCubbins, Mathew D. (author) • Noll, Roger (author) • Weingast, Barry (author) • American Politics • Bureaucracy • Institutions
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