lecture14 - UCLA PS 40 Department of Political Science...

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1 UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2007 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz HUNK 14 THE PROBLEM OF GOVERNANCE Today we consider the problem of enforcing or implementing policies. Distinct from the problem of making good laws, it concerns how legislation translates into practice. Earlier in the course we mentioned that the federal government (Congress) under the Articles of Confederation had this problem: it could not enforce its will. A telling example of the problem of implementation is George Washington’s suggestion to Congress that cattle and grain be taken from the farmers in Long Island so that the British who had just landed there could not get them. Congress took his advice, but nothing happened: the farmers kept their cattle and grain. A couple of other examples are Lincoln’s ordering General McClellan to attack Richmond, and his ordering General Meade to pursue the enemy after Gettysburg. They failed to carry out Lincoln’s orders. Similar examples involve Soviet leader Gorbachev’s initial efforts to reduce drinking and to reform the economy in the USSR. His orders had scant effect. These examples are instances of the agency problem . How does someone, a principal , get someone else, an agent , to do something? Much of political theory is about how government should be organized to reach good decisions - - and what, for that matter, constitutes a good decision. Much of political science, in contrast, is about what policies are made and how.
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2 Our problem today is a third one: the problem of governance , or control - - the problem of how policies are enforced, of how political decisions have effect. How do you get bureaucrats to obey you? This is not a trivial problem. Even Hobbes’s sovereign, the strongest person around, cannot coerce everyone in society to obey him; physically it is not feasible. Principal-Agent Problem Principal : This is someone who wishes to delegate power to someone else to do something, to implement some policy . Examples include a king, an employer, Congress. Agent : This is someone who has been hired or charged by the principal to do something. Examples include lesser nobles, employees, the bureaucracy. How, having delegated power, can a principal control his agent to get the job done? It is not feasible to monitor the agent(s) all the time. Look: Agent (A) W o r k S h i r k Monitor Principal (P) Don’t monitor The agent can either work or shirk , either do the job or not. The principal can either monitor the agent’s behavior or not . For the principal, monitoring is costly. His favorite outcome is for the agent to do the job without being monitored, while his least favored outcome is for the agent to shirk despite being monitored. If the principal knew P: gets 2 nd best A: gets 2 nd best P: gets worst A: gets worst P: gets best A: gets 2 nd worst P: gets 2 nd worst A: gets best
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3 for sure that the agent would shirk, he had rather not monitor. The agent’s preferences are
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lecture14 - UCLA PS 40 Department of Political Science...

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