Try to See it My Way: The Process and Perils of 'Coming Around'

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Can a career civil servant (bureaucrat) achieve long-term policy congruence via strategic reporting to a political appointee who oversees her agency and sets policy? This paper develops a model that explores when bureaucrats will misreport information relevant to an appointee’s short-term decision making in order to influence the appointee’s belief formation and, thereby, long-term policy setting. We find that when a bureaucrat’s short-term and long-term policy goals do not conflict too greatly, she will prefer to provide a truthful report to the appointee – who, in turn, is willing to accept the report as truthful (particularly as it pertains to short-term policy responses). When a bureaucrat’s long-term and short-term goals are in conflict, however, she has an incentive to engage in deception in which she reports misinformation to her political appointee in order to influence belief formation. Favorable conditions for this deception to take place include divergent policy preferences between the bureaucrat and the appointee, low likelihood of short-term decisions being necessary, and bureaucratic desire for long-term policy congruence from the appointee.

Prepared for presentation at the 24th Annual Conference for the Society for Institutional & Organizational Economics, June 19, 2020.

Darrian Stacy
Darrian Stacy
Assistant Professor