The Governor’s Dilemma: Competence Versus Control

Forthcoming, Regulation & Governance

34 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2018

See all articles by Kenneth W. Abbott

Kenneth W. Abbott

Arizona State University

Philipp Genschel

European University Institute

Duncan Snidal

Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Bernhard Zangl

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Date Written: November 28, 2018

Abstract

Most governance is indirect, carried out through intermediaries. Principal-agent (PA) theory views indirect governance primarily as a problem of information: the intermediary (agent) has an informational advantage over the governor (principal), which it can exploit for shirking, slacking or otherwise evading the governor’s control. But indirect governance creates an even more fundamental problem of power. Competent intermediaries with the expertise, credibility, legitimacy and/or operational capacity to achieve the governor’s goals are inherently difficult to control, even with complete information, because the policy benefits they can create (or the trouble they can cause) give them leverage over the governor. Conversely, tight governor control constrains these intermediary competencies. The governor thus faces a dilemma: if it emphasizes control, it limits intermediary competence and risks policy failure; if it emphasizes intermediary competence, it risks control failure. This “governor’s dilemma” helps explain important and puzzling features of indirect governance arrangements: why such arrangements are not limited to PA delegation, but take multiple forms; why particular governors choose forms of indirect governance that appear counter-productive in an informational perspective; and why indirect governance arrangements are frequently unstable, subject to repeated tinkering and changes of form.

Keywords: indirect governance, intermediaries, principal-agent, delegation, orchestration, cooptation, trusteeship, endogenous change

JEL Classification: D02

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne and Genschel, Philipp and Snidal, Duncan and Zangl, Bernhard, The Governor’s Dilemma: Competence Versus Control (November 28, 2018). Forthcoming, Regulation & Governance . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3293387

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

Philipp Genschel

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014
Italy
+39 055 4685 735 (Phone)

Duncan Snidal

Nuffield College, University of Oxford ( email )

New Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

Bernhard Zangl

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, Bavaria 80539
Germany

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