Institut for Statskundskab

Strategic Obfuscation: When delegation to bureaucrats subverts accountability

Publikation: Working paper/Preprint Working paperForskningpeer review


The connection between politicians' performance in office and citizens' vote choices is the core of democratic accountability. Nevertheless, even in modern democracies concerns persist that politicians might cut that connection by delegating power to avoid responsibility for policy outcomes. Existing theoretical models agree this is possible, but the mechanisms they propose depend on voters being largely ignorant about policy making processes. This paper introduces a model of rational retrospective performance voting that predicts blame-shifting delegation can succeed even when voters observe and understand delegation and policy outcomes. The model grounds its assumptions in recent experimental evidence that delegation itself makes responsibility for decisions less clear. Incumbents in the model delegate or legislate depending on how voters assign responsibility. Standard predictions about bureaucratic delegation also appear as equilibrium outcomes. Extensions consider variations in voter decision making and show blame shifting still occurs when politicians also decide how much discretion to delegate.
Antal sider42
StatusAfsendt - 2017

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