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Legislatures, Bureaucracies, and Distributive Spending

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 May 2012

MICHAEL M. TING
Affiliation:
Columbia University
Corresponding
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Abstract

This article develops a theory of bureaucratic influence on distributive politics. Although there exists a rich literature on the effects of institutions such as presidents, electoral systems, and bicameralism on government spending, the role of professional bureaucrats has yet to receive formal scrutiny. In the model, legislators bargain over the allocation of distributive benefits across districts. The legislature may either “politicize” a program by bargaining directly over pork and bypassing bureaucratic scrutiny, or “professionalize” it by letting a bureaucrat approve or reject project funding in each district according to an underlying quality standard. The model predicts that the legislature will professionalize when the expected program quality is high. However, politicization becomes more likely as the number of high-quality projects increases and under divided government. Further, more competent bureaucrats can encourage politicization if the expected program quality is low. Finally, politicized programs are larger than professionalized programs.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

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