Rule growth and government effectiveness: why it takes the capacity to learn and coordinate to constrain rule growth

Abstract

This paper asks whether strong bureaucracies can effectively constrain the continuously growing stock of rules in modern democracies through organizational coordination and learning. To answer this question, the paper analyzes the growth of rule stocks in the areas of environmental policy and social policy in 23 OECD countries over the period between 1976 and 2005. To do so, it develops a new measure of rule growth based on the content of laws and regulations rather than their length. The analysis highlights that effective bureaucracies are indeed better able to contain rule growth in these areas than weak bureaucracies. Since rules have to be implemented, countries suffering from bureaucratic capacity and quality constraints thus appear to be stuck in an implementation deficit trap. Appropriate implementation is not only inherently more challenging for countries with weak public administrations, but the body of rules to be implemented also tends to grow quicker in these countries.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Notes

  1. 1.

    We thus consciously decide to conceptualize the relevant aspect of policy legacy differently fort the two different sectors. Since the time of pioneering in welfare state policy has been over for a very long time, the specific institutional setting created at this juncture seems more important. In contrast, environmental pioneering is a much more recent phenomenon (judged by the start of our observation period) that has not generated systems that are as different as the different welfare state systems.

  2. 2.

    We avoid mentioning the name of the project as well as the financing institution at this stage of the review to keep the review process anonymous. All necessary details to judge the contents of the project are provided by the text above.

  3. 3.

    Future research might want to focus specifically on trying to identify more complex (potentially non-monotonic) relationships between consensus requirements and rule growth.

References

  1. Allan, J. P., & Scruggs, L. (2004). Political partisanship and welfare state reform in advanced industrial societies. American Journal of Political Science, 48(3), 496–512.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Arndt, C., & Oman, C. 2006. Uses and abuses of governance indicators. OECD Development Center Studies.

  3. Bauer, M. W., Jordan, A., Green-Pedersen, C., & Héritier, A. (2012). Dismantling public policy. Preferences, strategies, and effects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bennett, C. J., & Howlett, M. (1992). The lessons of learning: Reconciling theories of policy learning and policy change. Policy Sciences, 25(3), 275–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Blackmore, M. (2001). Mind the gap: Exploring the implementation deficit in the administration of the stricter benefits regime. Social Policy & Administration, 35(2), 145–162.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Blichner, L. C., & Molander, A. (2008). Mapping juridification. European Law Journal, 14(1), 36–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Datz, G. (2009). State of change: Global turmoil and government reinvention. Public Administration Review, 69(4), 660–667.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Esping-Andersen, G. 1990. The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. European Commission (2015). Communication from the commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions. Commission work programme 2015. A new start. com (2014) 0910 final, 16 December 2014. Brussels: Commission of the European Communities, available at http:http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52014DC0910&from=EN. Accessed October 2015.

  10. Gelman, A., Jakulin, A., Pittau, G. M., & Su, Y.-S. (2008). A weakly informative default prior distribution for logistic and other regression models. The Annals of Applied Statistics, 2(4), 1360–1383.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Gill, J., & Meier, K. J. (2000). Public administration research and practice: A methodological manifesto. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(1), 157–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gill, J., & Witko, C. (2013). Bayesian analytical methods: A methodological prescription for public administration. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 23(2), 457–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Goldthau, A. (2012). From the state to the market and back: Policy implications of changing energy paradigms. Global Policy, 3(2), 198–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Gunningham, N., & Sinclair, D. (1999). Regulatory pluralism: designing policy mixes for environmental protection. Law & Policy, 21(1), 49–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hall, P. A., & Taylor, R. C. R. (1996). Political science and the three new institutionalsims. Political Studies, 44, 936–957.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hanf, K., & Scharpf, F. W. (Eds.) (1978). Interorganizational policy making: limits to coordination and central control. Beverly Hills: Sage.

  17. Hannan, M. T., & Freeman, J. (1977). The population ecology of organizations. American Journal of Sociology, 82, 929–964.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Häusermann, S., Picot, G., & Geering, D. (2013). Review article: Rethinking party politics and the welfare state—recent advances in the literature. British Journal of Political Science, 43(1), 221–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Heclo, H., & Wildavsky, A. (1974). The private government of public money: community and policy inside British political administration. London: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Henisz, W. J. 2002. The institutional environment for infrastructure investment. Industrial and Corporate Change, 11(2), 355–389

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Héritier, A., & Rhodes, M. (Eds.). (2011). New modes of governance in Europe. Governing in the shadow of hierarchy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hibbs, D. (1977). Political parties and macroeconomic policy. American Political Science Review, 71(4), 1467–1487.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hirschl, R. (2008). The judicialization of politics. In G. A. Caldeira, R. D. Kelemen, & K. E. Whittington (Eds.), The oxford handbook of law and politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hood, C. C., & Margetts, H. Z. (2007). The tools of government in the digital age. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Huber, J. D., & Mccarty, N. (2004). Bureaucratic capacity, delegation, and political reform. American Political Science Review, 98(3), 481–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Iversen, T., & Soskice, D. (2006). Electoral institutions and the politics of coalitions: Why some democracies redistribute more than others. American Political Science Review, 100(2), 165–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Jakobsen, Mads L. F., & Mortensen, P. B. (2015). How politics shapes the growth of rules. Governance, 28(4), 497–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Jennings, P. Devereaux, Schulz, M., Patient, D., Gravel, C., & Yuan, K. (2005). Weber and legal rule evolution: The closing of the iron cage? Organization Studies, 26(4), 621–653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kaufman, D., Kraay, A., & Mastruzzi, M. 2007. The worldwide governance indicators project: Answering the critics. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (4149).

  30. Kaufman, D., Kraay, A., & Mastruzzi, M. 2010. The worldwide governance indicators methodology and analytical issues. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, (5430).

  31. Kaufmann, W., & Van Witteloostuijn, A. (2012). European and national rules as potential red tape drivers: An ecological analysis of the Europeanization of Dutch competition law, 1962–2010. International Public Management Journal, 15(3), 266–287.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Kaufmann, W., & Van Witteloostuijn, A. 2016. Do rules breed rules? Vertical rule-making cascades at the supranational, national, and organizational level. International Public Management Journal, published online first.

  33. Knack, S. 2006. Measuring corruption in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: A critique of the cross-country indicators. World Bank Policy Research Department Working Paper, 3968.

  34. Knill, C. (2015). Implementation. In: J. Richardson (Ed.), European Union: power and policy-making (4th ed.) (pp. 371-398). Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

  35. Knill, C., Debus, M., & Heichel, S. (2010). Do parties matter in internationalised policy areas? The impact of political parties on environmental policy outputs in 18 OECD countries, 1970–2000. European Journal of Political Research, 49(3), 301–336.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Knill, C., Heichel, S., & Arndt, D. (2012). Really a front-runner, really a straggler? Of environmental leaders and laggards in the European Union and beyond—a quantitative policy perspective. Energy Policy, 48, 36–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Knill, C., & Hille, P. (2006). ‘It’s the bureaucracy, stupid’. The implementation of the acquis communautaire in EU candidate countries, 1999–2003. European Union Politics, 7, 531–552.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Knill, C., & Lenschow, A. (Eds.). (2000). Implementing EU environmental policy: New directions and old problems. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Lee, J. (2009). Another dimension of welfare reform: The implementation of the employment insurance programme in Korea. International Journal of Social Welfare, 18, 281–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Levitt, B., & March, J. G. (1988). Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology, 14, 319–340.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Lijphart, A. 1999. Patterns of democracy: Government forms and performance in thirty-six democracies. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-level bureaucracy. Dilemmas of the individual in public services. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Majone, G. (1997). From the positive to the regulatory state: Causes and consequences of changes in the mode of governance. Journal of Public Policy, 17(2), 139–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. March, J. G., Schulz, M., & Zhou, X. (2000). The dynamics of rules: Change in written organizational rules. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Nicholson-Crotty, J., & Miller, S. M. (2012). Bureaucratic effectiveness and influence in the legislature. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 22(2), 347–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Page, E. C. (1992). Political authority and bureaucratic power. Hemel Hempsted: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Palier, B. (Ed.). (2010). A long goodbye to bismarck? The politics of welfare reform in Continental Europe. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Peacock, A., & Scott, A. (2000). The curious attraction of Wagner’s law. Public Choice, 103, 1–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Peters, B. G. (2013). The politics of bureaucracy (5th ed.). London: Routlegde.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Pierson, P. (1994). Dismantling the welfare state?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Pierson, P. (2000). Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics. American Political Science Review, 94, 251–267.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Pierson, P. (2001). Post-industrial pressures on the mature welfare states. In P. Pierson (Ed.), The new politics of the welfare state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Pollitt, C., & Bouckaert, G. (2011). Public management reform: a comparative analysis - new public management, governance, and the neo-weberian state. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Radaelli, C. M., & De Francesco, F. (2010). Regulatory impact assessment. In R. Baldwin, M. Cave, & M. Lodge (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of regulation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Riker, W. H. (1982). Liberalism against populism: A confrontation between the theory of democracy and the theory of social choice. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Salamon, L. M. (Ed.). (2002). The tools of government. A guide to the new governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Schmidt, M. G. (1978). The politics of domestic reform in the Federal Republic of Germany. Politics & Society, 8(2), 165–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Schulz, M. (1998). Limits to bureaucratic growth: The density dependence of organizational rule births. Administrative Science Quarterly, 43(4), 845–876.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Shapiro, M., & Sweet, A. S. 2002. On law, politics, and judicialization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Spendsharova, A., & Versluis, E. (2013). Issue salience in the european policy process: What impact on transposition? Journal of European Public Policy, 20(10), 1499–1516.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Sweet, A. S. 1999. Judicialization and the construction of governance. Comparative Political Studies, 32(2), 147–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Taylor-Gooby, P. (2001). Welfare states under pressure. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Thelen, K. (1999). Historical institutionalism in comparative politics. Annual Review of Political Science, 2, 369–404.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Thomas, M. A. 2010. What do the worldwide governance indicators measure? European Journal of Development Research, 22(1), 31–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Van Witteloostuijn, A., & De Jong, G. (2008). Changing national rules: Theory and evidence from the netherlands (1960–2004). Public Administration, 86(2), 499–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Van Witteloostuijn, A., & De Jong, G. (2010). Ecology of national rule birth: A longitudinal study of dutch higher education law, 1960–2004. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 20(1), 187–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Vedung, E. (1998). Policy instruments: Typologies and theories. In M. L. Bemelmans-Videc, R. C. Rist, & E. Vedung (Eds.), Carrots, sticks & sermons. New Brunswick/London: Transaction Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Volkens, A., Lacewell, O., Lehmann, P., Regel, S., Schultze, H., & Werner, A. 2011. The manifesto data collection. Manifesto Project (MRG/CMP/MARPOR), Berlin, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB).

  69. Volkens, A., Lacewell, O., Regel, S., Schultze, H., & Werner, A. 2009. The manifesto data collection. Manifesto Project (MRG/CMP/MARPOR), Berlin, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB).

  70. Wagner, A. (1876). Allgemeine oder theoretische Volkswirtschaftslehre - Erster Theil: Grundlegung. Leipzig: Winter.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Weber, M. (1972). Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Studienausgabe. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christoph Knill.

Additional information

The authors are grateful to two anonymous referees for their highly helpful and constructive comments to earlier versions of this manuscript.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5, 6 and 7.

Table 5 Correlation table of regressors
Table 6 Regression Table 1—political constraints
Table 7 Regression Table 2—consensus democracy

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Adam, C., Knill, C. & Fernandez-i-Marín, X. Rule growth and government effectiveness: why it takes the capacity to learn and coordinate to constrain rule growth. Policy Sci 50, 241–268 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11077-016-9265-x

Download citation

Keywords

  • Bureaucracy effectiveness
  • Rule growth
  • Environmental policy
  • Social policy