Theory and Context Institutional Choice and Public Administration Essay

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  • Subject: Government
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  • Paper: #42934717

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Theory & Context: Institutional Choice and Public Administration

This brief study examines the writing of individuals such as Meier and Krause (nd), Meier (nd), Moe (2011) and others for the purpose of constructing knowledge of the theoretical framework and context of institutional choice and public administration. The normative theory is examined and how that theoretical bases can be viewed to run throughout the fabric of the various theories and models used to explain institutional choice and public administration.

Bureaucratic Performance

Meier and Krause (nd) report that the literature on how bureaucratic performance is subjected to the control of political institutions through "ex post and ex-ante methods" is such that has been fully developed and as well there have been a great many studies conducted that examined how tools of budgeting, appointing, and oversight serve to affect the performance of bureaucrats. It is stated that bureaucratic performance in term of the choice of procedure chosen has indicated theoretical methods for administrative agency behavior constraint through application of rules. While the literature in this area of study has heightened the understanding in the areas of theory and empirical research in regards to political institutions use of motivation, incentives, and tactics, used in the formation of bureaucracy and have resulted in systematic research the literature in this area effectively "ignores or obscures the central role of public bureaucratic organizations and how they behave on institutional and organizational levels." (Meier and Krause, nd) Bureaucratic performance in public organizations remains for the largest part hidden from view and according to Meier and Krause, the literature in this area of study "treats bureaucratic performance as the result of political bargaining between some combination of the president, Congress and the courts, yet it fails to reserve a place for the bureaucracy at the table." (Meier and Krause, nd) The results in that the view of bureaucracy is one in which bureaucracy is not "centered nor institutionally balanced." (Meier and Krause, nd)

II. Institutions: Impact on Outcomes

The work of Miller (nd) states that it has been discovered anew that institutions "impact outcomes" and this discovery has "led naturally to a renewed interest in the origins of institutions." Miller states that rational choice models have played a central role in the comprehension of the importance of institutions and in the inquiry asking where the institutions come from. Miller notes that Pierson in his examination of the limitations of rational design mad a significant contribution to the reasons why the functional features of an institution cannot be attributed to the designers instrumental choices. In other words, it cannot be said that "the congressional committee system exists because it enhances legislative stability, nor can we say that firms exist because they solve various contracting problems between parties." (Miller, nd)

III. Purposes Served by Political Institutions

The work of Moe (2011) states that there are two specific purposes served by political institutions:

(1) they assist in mitigating collective action problems; and (2) they are weapons of coercion and redistribution.

Political institutions, according to Moe (2011) assist in mitigating collective action problems" and this, states Moe "is why they exist and take the forms they do." (2011, p.213) Moe (2011) holds that positivist theorists have an apparent disinterest in bureaucracy because the institutions and specifically that of legislatures are such that are "bound up with and bolster the analytic technology that points so compellingly to the first story." (Moe, 2011, p.214)

Meier and Krause hold that the predominant school of thought in bureaucracy study over recent years has been that of 'principal-agent' theory. This theory is such that makes a requirement of a "dynamic, inherently changing set of relationships over time." (Meier and Krause,, p.298) These relationships are those characterized by conflicting goals and asymmetry in terms of information and are such that do not experience evolution to balance but instead are often merely terminated." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.298)

Termination is not always feasible since the bureaucracy is "a monopoly provider" or termination is not realistic due to the exorbitant costs of that termination. The assumption of this theory is that there is "conflicting goals between the goals of the principal and the agent." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.289) This is true for agencies with the responsibility of implementing regulations and policies however, this assumption is questionable in cases where "politicians and administrative agencies do not have inherently conflicting goals." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.298)

It is reported that distributive policies that yield positive-sum gains for clientele groups, congressional committees and bureaucratic agencies do not fit the depiction of the principal-agent model as it was originally developed in law and financial economics." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.298) It is reported that the conventional principal-agent hypothesis which holds that the politicians will try to gain control of the bureaucracy "through monitoring and incentives is misguided in these types of agency-political relationships." (p.299) According to Miller (2002) principal-agent models fail to produce the benefits that are "consistent with the goals of principals." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.300)

Normative theory as it relates to bureaucracy is reported to have been "generally ignored by political scientists, even though such theories as budget maximization have normative implications." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.300) It is stated in the work of David B. Spence in his use of rational logical choice to support the argument that citizens sometimes give preference to bureaucratic decisions instead of those that elected officials make and the degree "to which expertise tempers representation processes is the key factor in this decision for citizens." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p. 300) Scholars are reported to be reliant on the comprehension of how behavior is affected by structures. Two structures are held to be relevant:

(1) standard operating procedures both within and external to the agencies; and (2) organizational structures need to be incorporated in our work. (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.300)

Decentralized organizations are such that are reported to be "dominated by street-level bureaucrats." (Meier and Krause, 2011, p.303)

According to Miller, the work of Pierson states two reasons that institutions may not be functional:

(1) in designing institutions, actors may not anticipate the effects of institutions on policy outcomes correctly;

(2) the time horizons of actors are generally very short. (nd, p.539)

Miller states that Pierson is astute in the observation that "unanticipated long-term consequences do cause problems for simple, functionalist institutionalism." (Miller, nd, p.540) There are logical difficulties in the aggregation of rational individual's choices into beneficial social outcomes and the element of 'unintended consequences' is stated to "take on a slightly different role than that attributed to it by Pierson." (Miller, nd, p.542)

IV. Rational Choice and Founders of U.S. Constitution

For Pierson, the applicability of rational choice to institutional design is limited and it may be thought of in the light of unintended consequences serving to provide an explanation of why individuals who are rational, in pursuing one set of goals accidentally discovers an institutional design that is more beneficial than they had intended. (Miller, nd, p.543) The example stated is that when the Founders of the U.S. Constitutional principles met in Philadelphia for the purpose of discussing the new constitution, these founders were divided into groups that supporter Madison's Virginia plan (legislative representation based on population) and the New Jersey plan (state representation). It is stated that there is "an instrumental explanation for why the representatives of different states supported the constitutional features that they did." (Miller, nd, p. 544) While not first choice of anyone, "The Great Compromise…has provided the basis for an effective bicameralism that has played a role in legislative stability and a flexible form of evolving and successful federalism." (Miller, nd, p.546) Indeed, this example clearly is one of unintended consequences. Meier states that bureaucratic actors and their actions are based on the determination of factors…

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