The Incompetence Trap: The (Conditional) Irrelevance of Agency Expertise

Forthcoming in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

46 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2016 Last revised: 26 Oct 2016

See all articles by Gary Hollibaugh

Gary Hollibaugh

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 12, 2016

Abstract

Formal models of the appointments process typically cast the decision of the appointing executive as one where an open position is assumed and an appointee is chosen in order to maximize the utility of the executive (and perhaps that of the legislature if confirmation is required). However, several — often patronage-focused — processes within the appointments process focus instead on finding acceptable positions for “necessary-to-place” individuals. Here, I develop a model where the goal is to find the best position for such an individual. In contrast to many existing models of the appointments process, I find that when the personnel process is focused on finding the best position for a given person as opposed to finding the best person for a given position, “turkey farms” — agencies that have high numbers of minimally-competent (but necessary-to-place) individuals among their ranks — can result in equilibrium. Moreover, once agency capacity is sufficiently low, incompetent individual appointees no longer have detrimental effects on the utilities of the appointing principals, which further incentivizes the usage of certain agencies as “turkey farms.”

Keywords: executive appointments, formal models, agency competence, bureaucratic appointments, formal models

JEL Classification: D7, D70, D73

Suggested Citation

Hollibaugh, Gary, The Incompetence Trap: The (Conditional) Irrelevance of Agency Expertise (October 12, 2016). Forthcoming in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2758229 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2758229

Gary Hollibaugh (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame - Department of Political Science ( email )

2060 Jenkins Nanovic Halls
Notre Dame, IN 46556
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.garyhollibaugh.com

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