Buying discretion in Mexico's new democracy : patronage in bureaucratic-legislative relations




Velázquez López Velarde, Paris Rodrigo

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The dissertation analyzes why legislators fail to use their oversight powers over bureaucracy in democratic Mexico. While dominant institutional theories assume a unidirectional flow of authority from politicians to bureaucrats, in Mexico there is a bidirectional negotiation process; as such, principals have formal rights to control the agents, but agents have informal leverage over principals, as well. Due to the absence of a Weberian state and extensive state intervention, bureaucrats are able to control resources that legislators require in order to advance their careers. By distributing resources that politicians can use for patronage purposes, bureaucrats obtain legislators’ consent to design and implement programs as they wish. Consequently, members of Congress renounce their control powers in exchange for securing resources for their constituents or cronies. Furthermore, informal mechanisms of influence neutralize the formal control powers that legislators have over bureaucrats. Public officials’ power and the lack of legislative control over bureaucracy are documented by analyzing the budgetary process and health policy in Mexico between 1997 and 2006. The main implication of the dissertation is that although democratization produced changes that gave more formal powers to Congress, it has not eliminated the informal mechanisms used by bureaucrats to influence legislators. As a result, public officials continue to enjoy ample leeway in implementing public policies and programs.




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