The Innovative Personality? Policymaking and Experimentation in an Authoritarian Bureaucracy

International Conference on Social Policy and Governance Innovation (Guangzhou, China), October 27-28 (2018)

16 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2018 Last revised: 31 Mar 2019

See all articles by Reza Hasmath

Reza Hasmath

University of Alberta - Department of Political Science

Jessica Teets

Middlebury College

Orion Lewis

Middlebury College

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

Why do local officials in an authoritarian bureaucracy experiment with policy, even when directed not to do so by central-level officials? This study suggests that policy experimentation in this institutional environment can best be understood as an interaction between the structure in which local officials are embedded, and individual-level personality attributes. Leveraging a new data set from a series of original surveys with local policymakers in mainland China, conducted between 2016 and 2018, we discern three base-line personality types: authoritarian, consultative and entrepreneurial. We thereafter examine the individual-level characteristics of local officials who will innovate irrespective of a centralization of bureaucratic power and interests, as currently experienced under Chinese President Xi Jinping. We find that local policymakers engage in policy innovation when they are more focused on resolving governance problems, and that increased risk reduces but does not eliminate their willingness to innovate. Based on these findings, we contend that future studies of policy innovation should use an evolutionary framework to examine the interaction between preferences and selection pressures.

Keywords: authoritarian institutions, China, governance, local government, policymakers’ personality, policy innovation, risk tolerance

Suggested Citation

Hasmath, Reza and Teets, Jessica and Lewis, Orion, The Innovative Personality? Policymaking and Experimentation in an Authoritarian Bureaucracy (2018). International Conference on Social Policy and Governance Innovation (Guangzhou, China), October 27-28 (2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3280114 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3280114

Reza Hasmath (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Political Science ( email )

10-16 Henry Marshall Tory Building
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2H4
Canada

Jessica Teets

Middlebury College ( email )

Middlebury, VT 05753
United States

Orion Lewis

Middlebury College ( email )

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