Decentralization and Political Control of the Bureaucracy
Journal of Theoretical Politics, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 167-193, 2002
Posted: 4 Jun 2005
In contrast to principal-agency theory, the possibility of the political control of the bureaucracy depends on bureaucratic structure. In this paper, I argue that the functional decentralization of responsibility and authority for policy formulation and implementation involves a net loss of political control. I show that the choice by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to transfer responsibility to its Regional Offices changed the ability of national political superiors to intervene in policy implementation in the field. Examining Regional Office data on the enforcement of reactor regulations from 1975 to 1996, I present statistical tests of the changing influence of national political institutions, local policy preferences, and the Regions' task environment. I find that decentralization insulated the NRC from national political oversight, and that the Regions were more responsive to local oversight post-devolution and deviated from a natural rate of enforcement.
Keywords: Decentralization, Political Control, Bureaucratic Politics, Principal-agency Theory, Regulatory Policy
JEL Classification: H11, K20, Q48
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation