Michael Laver and Kenneth Shepsle, ‘Government accountability in parliamentary democracy”, in Bernard Manin, Susan Stokes and Adam Prezeworski, Democracy, Accountability and Representation (2003), Chapter 9.

_Main Argument:_

Laver & Shepsle are looking at the arrangement of institutional (the micro-foundations of) accountability. In most democracies, accountability is mediated. The political agents (civil service) who implement policies that affect citizen welfare are not directly accountable to those citizens. Rather they are accountable to representatives of those citizens. The second point is to align idea of accountability with that of equilibrium. Equilibrium is a state where there is no alterative portfolio allocation (in a collation) that is preferred by a parliamentary majority. A government is said to be accountable to parliament when parliament has no reason to replace it with an alternative [290].

 

_Method:_ Laver & Shepsle use a generalised spatial model to explain situations of policy equilibrium.

 

 

== Notes ==

 

–     The effectiveness of accountability institutions in parliamentary democracy depends upon the credibility of the no-confidence mechanism, which is tern, depends upon the alternatives available to replace a sitting cabinet or minister

–     Thus, there is a sequence of accountability relationships: voter –> representative –> PM –> minister –> civil service

–     Making and breaking governments is the method for dealing with problems of adverse selection and moral hazard

 

_Model:_

–     In the case of a collation, each party has a preferred policy vector in a multidimensional space (see page 283-4)

–     The jurisdictional structure of parliamentary government constitutes a set of standing decisions (rules of the game – exogenous)

–     Equilibrium is a state where there is no alterative portfolio allocation (in a collation) that is preferred by a parliamentary majority

–     The connection between parliament and cabinet is an equilibrium

–     A government is said to be accountable to parliament when parliament has no reason to replace it with an alternative [290]

–     It is possible for there to be a government whose forecast policy is preferred by a parliamentary majority to it. This government would be in an equilibrium and will perform in an accountable manner [293]

–     This is not to say that there are no policies that a majority would prefer – it just means that there are no governments available to implement any of these policies

 

An equilibrium is where:

  1. The government in power is performing as expected
  2. that performance is accountable in some sense that it does not trigger the accountability mechanism
  3. Parliamentary majorities need not be particularly pleased with the policies implemented
  4. Parliament cannot credibly threaten to stage a successful vote of no confidence