Who Answers for the Government? Bureaucrats, Ministers, and Responsible Parties

54 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2020 Last revised: 12 Jun 2020

See all articles by Max Goplerud

Max Goplerud

Harvard University

Daniel M. Smith

Harvard University - Department of Government

Date Written: June 11, 2020

Abstract

A key feature of parliamentary democracy is government accountability vis-à-vis the legislature, but the important question of who speaks for the government—cabinet ministers or unelected bureaucrats, and the institutional underpinnings of this behavior—receives scant attention in the existing literature. We investigate this question with the case of Japan, and data on millions of committee speeches spanning distinct electoral and legislative institutional environments. We document how a party-strengthening electoral system reform in 1994 facilitated a dramatic shift in the nature of government accountability to parliament: speeches by ministers increased, speeches by bureaucrats decreased, and discursive accountability between ministers and opposition legislators increased. Subsequent legislative reforms expanding junior ministerial roles and placing explicit limits on bureaucratic participation further reinforced the effects. These findings shed new light on the institutional foundations of responsible party government in general, as well as its progressive development in Japan.

Keywords: ministerial accountability, responsible party government, legislative speech, electoral systems, Japan

JEL Classification: D02, D71, D72 D73

Suggested Citation

Goplerud, Max and Smith, Daniel M., Who Answers for the Government? Bureaucrats, Ministers, and Responsible Parties (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3542039 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3542039

Max Goplerud

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Daniel M. Smith (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.google.com/site/danielmarkhamsmith

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