Friday, March 30, 2007

Political Appointees

Steven Teles over at the Mark Kleiman blog responded to this post from Sanford Levinson over at the Open University blog. Sanford is arguing that political influence on the bureaucracy is bad, Steve is pointing out that ideological appointees solve a principal agent problem. Steve concludes with this question:

This is, in part, an institutional problem--how do you ensure that the executive branch does not overweight its political strata with ideological hacks?
His answer is that the Senate should ensure a more publicly beneficial balance of ideology and technical expertise. This then begs the same question, reformulated with the addition "and the Senate" after "executive branch".

The real solution is that the degree to which ideology should be isolated from bureaucracy is inversely related to the degree to which you believe the democratic practices in place support the policies which are in the public's best interest.

Of course, any individual's belief in the efficiency of Democracy in supporting the public benefit is likely highly influenced by whether the party currently in power is one more ideologically aligned with their own views.


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