Bureaucratic Decision Costs and Endogenous Agency Expertise

Posted: 23 Jun 2008

See all articles by Matthew Stephenson

Matthew Stephenson

Harvard Law School; Institute for Corruption Studies

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2007


This article analyzes the effect of the cost that an agency must incur to adopt a new regulation (the enactment cost ) on the agency's incentive to invest in expertise. The effect of the enactment cost on agency expertise depends on whether the agency would regulate if it fails to acquire additional information about the regulation's effects. If an uninformed agency would regulate, increasing enactment costs increases agency expertise; if an uninformed agency would retain the status quo, increasing enactment costs decreases agency expertise. These results may influence the behavior of an uninformed overseer, such as a court or legislature, that can manipulate the agency's enactment costs. Such an overseer must balance its interest in influencing agency policy preferences against its interest in increasing agency expertise. The article discusses the implications of these results for various topics in institutional design, including judicial and executive review of agency regulations, structure-and-process theories of congressional oversight, national security, criminal procedure, and constitutional law.

Suggested Citation

Stephenson, Matthew Caleb, Bureaucratic Decision Costs and Endogenous Agency Expertise (June 2007). The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pp. 469-498, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1150035 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jleo/ewm030

Matthew Caleb Stephenson (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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