In a new article for Governance, Katherine Bersch, Sérgio Praça, and Matthew Taylor respond to calls for better measures of state capacity and bureaucratic autonomy at the subnational level. Their new measures are “objective and independent of outcome.” And they allow exploration of the causes of corruption within Brazil. “Low capacity and autonomy are associated with higher corruption,” they find. Single-party dominance also increases corruption through its negative effects on agency capacity. Read the article.
Britain’s “Next Steps” program was supposed to redefine the bargain between ministers and senior public service executives, granting more autonomy in exchange for more direct accountability. But it hasn’t always worked out that way, Thomas Elston explains. We need to distinguish explicit and tacit aspects of the “public service bargain,” and recognize that these two aspects move “in and out of alignment with each other.” In the UK justice sector, oversight of agencies is “far more hierarchical and contract based.” But the appearance of independence allows politicians to make more intricate calculations about credit-claiming or blame-avoiding for agency activities. Read the article.
Why do voters support corrupt politicians? In the current issue of Governance, Eric Chang and Nicholas Kerr examine voter attitudes and behavior in eighteen sub-Saharan African countries. They distinguish between outsiders and two kinds of insiders: those who belong to patronage networks, and those who share partisan or ethnic affilations with incumbents. “Patronage insiders” recognize higher levels of corruption but tolerate it, while “identity insiders” are simply less aware of political corruption. Read the article.
Transparency’s rise as an administrative norm over the past few decades has seemed unstoppable. But what will happen in the era of Trump? Mark Fenster explores this question in a new commentary for Governance. He distinguishes between two conceptions of transparency — technocratic and populist. Trump seems likely to resist the first conception while embracing the second. Transparency advocates, who have grown accustomed to thinking about openness in technocratic terms, will have to develop new ways of talking about the subject. They should “deploy the moral and populist understanding of transparency” that is preferred by Trump himself, to defend the laws and regulations that have been put in place to assure openness. Free access to the commentary.
“The tenor of political rhetoric” is a key indicator of the health of a society’s underlying norms, Julia Buxton argues in a new commentary for Governance. And today that indicator shows that we are in a time of “norm regress: an unraveling of the shift in public attitudes over many decades that has made human rights a lived expectation and bigotry and hatred an anathema.” Buxton argues that it is time for academics to think more carefully about their obligations as cherished norms decay. “How, as citizens and moral agents as well as intellectuals, shall we defend and further the ideals of an open society?” Free access to the commentary.
The international community invests enormous resources in peacebuilding but sees modest results. “It is the underlying theory of peacebuilding that is at fault,” Naazneen Barma writes in a commentary in the current issue of Governance. The usual process of “institutional engineering” to promote statebuildingand democratization “becomes captured by elites, who co-opt interventions to achieve their own political objectives.” Barma urges “A more clear-eyed and experimental approach to peacebuilding,” that recognizes elite priorities and finds new ways of broadening political space. Read the commentary.