Gridlock and Delegation in a Changing World

Forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science

Stanford School of Business Research Paper No. 2100

37 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2012 Last revised: 27 Feb 2014

See all articles by Steven Callander

Steven Callander

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Keith Krehbiel

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: January 6, 2014

Abstract

Fixed statutes and regulations often have variable consequences over time. If left unattended, such drift can severely erode the performance of government as an institution of representation. To better understand the mechanics of policy-making in a changing world, we develop a positive theory that captures political drift in a dynamic, separation-of-powers system. We show analytically that a distinctive combination of legislative supermajoritarianism and agency autonomy institutional features that, in isolation, elicit widespread criticism - can effectively ameliorate policies' susceptibility to the vicissitudes of exogenous change. The critical mechanism for governmental accommodation of drift is delegation, which increases all decision-makers' well-being by reducing fluctuations in outcomes. Although the complete smoothing of outcomes is attainable in a separation of powers system, we show that this is typically not achieved in equilibrium. The presence of drift provides an opportunity for self-interested legislators to extract a distributional benefit from their fellow legislators at the expense of overall policymaking efficiency.

Keywords: fixed statutes, regulations, policy, delegation, gridlock, separation of powers

Suggested Citation

Callander, Steven and Krehbiel, Keith, Gridlock and Delegation in a Changing World (January 6, 2014). Forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science; Stanford School of Business Research Paper No. 2100. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2083840 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2083840

Steven Callander

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Keith Krehbiel (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

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