Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2002


The Comparative Politics of Institutions and Policymaking

Course was cancelled

Lecturer: Professor Matthew Soberg Shugart
Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies,
University of California, San Diego
Dates: 5. - 9. August 2002


Objectives
In this course, we depart from the format of the conventional "Comparative Governments" course, which often follows a country-by-country, descriptive approach. Instead, we seek to develop a more general approach that can be used to study policymaking in a wide variety of national settings. This course teaches tools for analyzing the logic of how decisions are made, why decision makers choose the policies they choose and to whom they have to answer for the choices made.

The course also serves as an introduction to a wide range of topics suitable for research in the field of institutions and policy-making, such as constitutional design, party systems, legislatures, and single-party systems. It cannot exhaustively treat these vast topics, and some themes that might be placed under the rubric of "institutions" must necessarily be excluded or treated only tangentially. The intent is to provide students with an overview of several important topics.

The course is divided into three analytical modules. In the first, we study general principles of political organization and how the "principal-agent" theory, derived from management studies, elucidates how political systems work and how collective decisions are made. In the second, we apply these concepts to the variety of democratic institutions found in various world regions. In the third, we look at the variety of authoritarian institutions and limits on "formal" democratic institutions, exploring questions about the many countries of the world that are either authoritarian or semi-democracies and may be in transition from one form of government to another.

Although this is largely a lecture-based course, students are nonetheless required to participate in class discussions. The lecturer reserves the right to call on any student "cold" at any time, and students called are expected to be able to demonstrate that they have read and reflected upon the relevant reading. Students are also encouraged to volunteer pertinent remarks and ask clarifying or probing questions during class. Naturally, basic standards of courtesy, i.e. raising one's hand and waiting to be acknowledged, are expected of students. Please understand that some questions will be deferred due to time constraints, or because they raise issues beyond the scope of the class. Such questions should be brought to office hours, or other informal settings, instead.


Essential basic readings

Items marked * are included in the course reader. Items marked # are in books available through the Oslo Summer School bookstore.


Outline of Lectures

Session 1: Introduction to Institutional Analysis and Collective Action
Key questions: What are public goods, and why do they tend to be undersupplied? How do groups organize? What is the free-rider problem, and how can it be overcome? Why do some groups remain "latent"? What are "institutions," and "institutionalism"?

Readings:


Session 2: Institutional Arrangements, Delegation of Authority, and Models of Democracy
Key questions: What are principals and agents? What problems does organizational structure solve? What problems does it create? How are the problems created by delegation mitigated within an organizational structure? What are the majoritarian and consensus models, and how do they delegate differently the political authority of government?

Readings:


Session 3: Political institutions and delegation of authority: Parliamentary vs. presidential democracy
Key questions: Where does the cabinet dominance of majoritarian parliamentary come from; i.e., how can it be explained by looking at the question of who has ultimate authority? Is a presidential system majoritarian or consensual? What factors explain whether a parliamentary or presidential system is majoritarian or consensual? What are the "perils" of presidentialism, and what are the advantages of presidentialism? What are the main hybrids between presidential and parliamentary democracy, and can they provide the advantages of presidentialism without the disadvantages?

Readings:

Recommended readings:


Session 4: Electoral Systems
Key questions: Key questions: How do proportional representation (PR) and plurality (or majoritarian) electoral systems operate? What are "mixed-member" electoral systems? What are some political consequences of different types of electoral systems?

Readings:

Recommended readings:


Session 5: Legislatures
Key questions: What are the political consequences of unicameralism vs. bicameralism, and of different varieties of bicameralism? How are different cameral structures related to federalism? To majoritarian vs. consensus democracy? How do the internal structures of legislative bodies affect representation and governance?

Readings:

Recommended reading:


Session 6: Case Studies of Institutional Reform
Key questions: What were the problems, or "pathologies," of the former electoral systems in each case? What were the factors that led to reform? Have the new electoral systems "fixed" the problems that reformers had targeted? In case of Colombia, we ask, why has there been no reform, despite wide agreement that there are serious pathologies to the existing system? Additionally, for both Colombia and Venezuela, does it make a difference to the pathologies and the reform process that these are presidential, rather than parliamentary, systems?

Readings:


Session 7: Delegation from politicians to bureaucrats
Key questions: How, according to the authors, do bureaucratic structures differ in Britain and the United States? What is the logic of delegation that explains the different structures that we see in different forms of democratic systems? Why are bureaucrats given more "autonomy" in Britain and why does the American bureaucracy operate under such strict procedures? How do electoral institutions affect legislative incentives under separation of powers? How do legislators use delegation (abdication?) to help solve their collective action dilemmas?

Readings:

Recommended reading:


Session 8: How Politicians Shape the Roles of Judges and Central Banks
Key questions: What is central bank "independence" and is it desirable? Should legislation passed by elected representatives be subject to higher authority? What characteristics of institutions influence whether central banks and judiciaries are really independent of politicians?


Session 9: Institutions in authoritarian and semi-democratic systems
Key questions: How does the logic of delegation work in authoritarian systems, and how does it differ in military versus Leninist systems? What is reciprocal accountability, and how is it different from hierarchical accountability? What is clientelism, and how, according to Fox, does it inhibit the transition from "formal" to "real" electoral democracy? Does clientelism in fact inhibit democracy, or is it just another form of "linkage" when it occurs in competitive electoral environments?

Readings:

Recommended readings:


Session 10: Conclusion
Key question: How do institutions affect the nature and quality of democracy? (We will continue with some of the themes from Session 9 in this session; this session will be devoted largely to questions and discussion, rather than lecture.)

Readings:


The lecturer
Professor Shugart is an authority on issues of constitutional design and electoral rules around the world. His current research focuses on how political institutions affect the propensity of governments to provide "public goods." Related to this theme, he has projects underway on judicial reform in developing countries and the politics of constitutional replacement in Latin America. His research agenda has developed in parallel with his role as an adviser to several constitutional or electoral-law drafting committees, including those in Albania, Argentina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Eritrea, Estonia, and Fiji.

Shugart's most recent book is a volume entitled Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds? (Oxford, 2001). In this volume, Shugart and his collaborators assess the increasingly common mixed-member system, whereby some legislators are elected in Anglo-American single-seat districts and others by proportional representation. In another recent publication, "Constitutional Change in Colombia: Policy Adjustment through Institutional Change," (1999), Shugart has applied his expertise on constitutional and electoral matters to the crisis in Colombia, and argued that Colombia needs fundamental electoral reform before its democracy will be able to function better.

He is also the co-author or co-editor of five books: Seats and Votes: The Effects and Determinants of Electoral Systems, Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics, Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America (edited with Scott Mainwaring), and Executive Decree Authority: Calling Out the Tanks or Just Filling Out the Forms?, as well as the volume on Mixed-Member Electoral Systems.