Civil Service Reform in U.s. States: Structural Causes and Impacts on Delegation
Elliott Ash (University of Warwick and ETH Zurich)
Massimo Morelli (Bocconi University)
Matia Vannoni (Bocconi University)

Abstract : This paper studies the causes and consequences of civil service reforms creating an independent bureaucracy -- that is, moving from a spoils system (where the civil service is controlled by politicians) to a merit system (where bureaucrats are more independent). We first demonstrate theoretically that divided government is a key trigger of civil service reform: legislators have a stronger incentive to establish an independent bureaucracy when their interests diverge from the governor's. Taking this idea to comprehensive civil service reforms in U.S. states in the second half of the 20th century, we find that states tended to introduce stronger merit systems when there was divided government. Next, we examine the impact of these reforms on legislation using new methods from computational linguistics. We find that after civil service reform, legislators start writing more detailed statutes that contain more legal provisions. This is consistent with an agency cost model where a more independent bureaucracy requires more specific instructions to avoid bureaucratic drift, rather than an expertise model where a more professionalized bureaucracy should be given more discretion.

Private Order Building: the State in the Role of the Civil Society and the Case of Fifa
Branislav Hock (University of Portsmouth)
Suren Gomtsian (University of Leeds)

Abstract : There is an ever-present danger that a private association may evolve into an enterprise with an elitist structure that extensively exploits its powers. While it is well known that the key role in limiting the excessive powers of state elites belongs to civil society, the question of policing the elites of monopolistic private orders is understudied. We use the case of the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) private order to illustrate how private orders evolve under constraints imposed by public orders. Although private ordering has advantages compared to public ordering, much of the credit for the success of FIFA’s private order goes to the state. Regulatory privileges granted to FIFA, and the refusal to intervene widely in FIFA’s affairs, have made private ordering possible in the first place. The challenge is, however, that private association capture by powerful interest groups can easily limit advantages of private ordering. In this situation, the proper role of the state is to act in the role of civil society by employing strategic interventions to help the private order deal with its governance failures without endangering the private order’s existence. Accordingly, when the power within a monopolistic private membership association becomes heavily imbalanced, it invites the state to intervene in an attempt to restore the lost balance. However, opening the door to the state—as in the case of so-called FIFA-gate—increases the danger that other and greater interventions will undermine the existence of the private order and remove its advantages.

Accessing the State: Executive Constraints and Credible Commitment in Dictatorships
Anne Meng (University of Virginia)

Abstract : A central finding from research on authoritarian regimes is that institutionalized forms of dictatorship tend to be the most stable. A key assumption underlying this argument is that institutions can always credibly constrain autocratic leaders. This article examines this assumption by examining how and when certain institutions can provide commitment power in dictatorships. I argue that institutions successfully constrain leaders only when they provide other elites with access to the state, thereby empowering potential challengers and limiting the amount of discretion the leader has over power and resources. I formalize this argument in a game theoretic model where the implementation of executive constraints functions to shift the future distribution of power in favor of elites, alleviating commitment problems by enhancing elites’ ability to overthrow the leader in future periods. I show that leaders are likely to place constraints on their own authority when they enter power weak and susceptible to being deposed. Even if the leader receives a particularly “bad” draw of weakness in the first period and is, on average, much stronger, the need to alleviate commitment problems in the first period swamp future considerations.