Queen's Economics Department Working Paper No. 1070
Politicians typically do not know what policies are best for achieving their broad objectives, so rely on bureaucrats for advice. Bureaucrats are better informed, so can manipulate outcomes by proposing policies that suit their interests. We capture this conflict of interests using a model of political decision-making that focuses on the interaction between politicians and the bureaucracies that advise them. In the basic model, a representative bureaucrat, knowing the characteristics of a given project, recommends to a representative politician whether to adopt it. If the politician chooses to adopt the project, its characteristics are revealed ex post. On the basis of the revealed outcome, the politician decides whether to discipline the bureaucrat. The bureaucrat anticipates imperfectly the chances of discipline when making an ex ante recommendation. When project characteristics are multi-dimensional, the politician can choose whether to seek advice from one bureaucrat or more than one. We compare outcomes in these centralized and decentralized regimes.