The Politician’s Dilemma: Politicians who might otherwise consider offering reforms as a strategy for attracting support will not be able to afford the cost in lost political resources as long as they compete with others able to use such resources in the struggle for votes.
Summary: Geddes is looking at why public goods (i.e. a functioning bureaucracy) are not produced in conditions where they should be. Her solution is to examine the incentives of actors – using a soft rational choice approach, she posits that what needs to be examined is how individuals who have the power to make decisions are impacted by institutional conditions (i.e. electoral rules, etc.) The key is that actors are expected to act according to what will further their careers and add to their security. In most cases, offering public goods does not (but see Olson for a counter-argument). She sees the improvement of the bureaucracy as being a collective action problem, one that can be overcome by political entrepreneurs, but only in the right incentive-structure environment.
Methodology: Geddes uses a ‘soft’ rational choice perspective, eschewing the broader concept of ‘state autonomy’ and instead focusing on the micro-decisions of members of the state.
== Chapter 1: The State ==
– Discussions of ‘the’ state offer little theoretical leverage for understanding the sources of the competing interests of different actors within the state.
– The state can be seen instead as a collection of self-interested individuals.
– Methodology: An approach to the state based on a model of rationally self-interested political leaders.
– State decisions are made by human beings, so the decisions and their content will reflect their interest.
– “officials and politicians will behave in ways that result in state autonomy when it serves their own career interests to do so. When their interests can be furthered by representing particular societal interests, they will do this.” (8)
– Institutions (such as electoral rules, party procedures, etc) determine what kinds of behavior are most likely to contribute to career advancement.
– “The approach to thinking about the state proposed here focuses on how institutions, especially political institutions, shape the incentives of individuals in government, and how, in consequence, these individuals choose policies.” (13)
– “the development of bureaucratic competence depends on whether it serves the immediate career interests of the politicians who initiate reforms and choose appointment strategies.” (14)
– Regarding increasing state capacity: it’s a question of the incentives facing the individuals who make decisions. It all depends on whether or not those who are in the place to implement programs / design programs / fund programs / etc can have their own careers and security advanced by doing so. Where they can, they will act, where not, they will not.
== Chapter 2: Reform as a Collective Good: Political Entrepreneurs and Democratic Politics ==
– Chapter explains why democratic governments have often failed to respond to the public interest of providing a competent bureaucracy.
– Elites benefit from the status quo, and oppose changes
– Administrators and politicians would bear the costs of change
– Benefits are public, but costs are private
– Thus, many of the policy changes that contribute to reforming the state involves collective action problems
– However, it is not simply a one-shot prisoner’s dilemma
– Cooperation does occur, but it tends to be limited to small groups (political clientele networks, for example) – the upshot being that cooperation aids the power source
– Within these small groups, conventions of cooperation have evolved that are antithetical to the achievement of large-scale collective aims. (34)
– This chapter depicts the struggle for administrative reform as a collective action problem in which the pursuit of individual interests would result in suboptimal provision of the reforms that would be expected to contribute to enhanced state capacity to intervene in the economy and to provide government services. It has been argued that the pursuit of individual interests can impede the achievement of goals that would, if achieved, improve the quality of life for most of the people who currently stand in the way of reaching them. (35)
– Two parts to this argument:
1) For most ordinary people, achieving increased administrative competence and honesty is a collective action problem. Consequently, their interest in reform remains latent; it does not spontaneously develop into politically compelling demands.
2) The disincentives to spontaneous innovations in collective action are even more formidable than most rational choice literature suggests.
Q: How then do changes come about?
– Political Entrepreneurs supply public goods in the expectation that they individually will receive some reward for doing so.
– The incentive structures supplied by institutions thus matter greatly in the kinds of public goods political entrepreneurs will be willing to supply.
– A political entrepreneur may profit from providing a public good for which the public has expressed no demand.
– A democratic political system should ideally provide politicians with good reasons for supplying public good desired by citizens whose votes they need to stay in office, in reality the combination of the information asymmetry and the influence asymmetry between members of internal and external constituencies gives politicians an incentive to respond to the particular interests of some politically useful citizens rather than to the general interests of the public as a whole.