In representative democracies, citizens give politicians the authority to decide on the implementation of a variety of policies. Delegation has clear advantages in terms of benefits of specialization. However, delegation may create agency problems between citizens and their politicians. Politicians may exert too little effort, implement inefficient policies, extract rents, or otherwise perform badly. In this thesis, principal-agent problems between citizens and politicians are central to the analysis. The main objective is to explain several institutional arrangements, observed in governments, in the light of the agency problems. The agency problems between voters and politicians are characterized by two essential ingredients. First, politicians are often better informed about the effects of public policies than the electorate. Second, the preferences of politicians are not necessarily aligned with the preferences of the electorate. We examine how the selection of politicians as well as some regulations governing politicians’ actions helps to reduce the incidence of policy failures. Each chapter focuses on a different component of the political decision making process. In the first chapter, we consider the interaction between different types of politicians in electoral competition. We show why a political culture may be self-reinforcing. The second chapter shows why there is a strong incentive for a leader in office to replace a critical member of parliament. The third chapter tries to provide an explanation for the observed variety in the composition of committees in U.S. Congress. Finally, the last chapter provides a rationale for the sequential nature of information collection in advocacy systems.

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Swank, Prof. Dr. O.H. (promotor)
O.H. Swank (Otto)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Tinbergen Instituut Research Series
Erasmus School of Economics

Beniers, K. (2005, September). The Quality of Political Decision-Making: information and motivation (No. 359). Tinbergen Instituut Research Series. Retrieved from