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The incoherence of institutional reform: decentralization as a structural solution to immediate political needs

Faguet, Jean-Paul ORCID: 0000-0002-7188-0098 and Shami, Mahvish (2021) The incoherence of institutional reform: decentralization as a structural solution to immediate political needs. Studies in Comparative International Development. ISSN 0039-3606

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s12116-021-09347-4

Abstract

Institutional reforms are structural changes in the rules and norms of authority, with effects that are long-term and unpredictable on government, politics, and society. But leaders may undertake them to solve unrelated, discrete, short-term political problems. Understanding the latter is key to understanding the characteristics of many real reforms, and hence their fate. We introduce the concept of instrumental incoherence and use it to construct a theory of decentralization where reform is motivated by orthogonal objectives. We show that reformers’ incentives map onto the specifics of reform design via their side effects, not their main effects, which in turn lead to the medium- and long-term consequences eventually realized. We characterize downwardly accountable decentralization, which ties the hands of the center to empower local voters, vs. upwardly accountable decentralization, which ties the hands of local government to empower the center. We use these ideas to explain highly divergent outcomes in two extreme cases, Bolivia and Pakistan, using detailed, original evidence. Our analysis likely extends to a broader class of reforms where the incentives of agents pursuing a change, and the effects of that change, are highly asymmetric in time and dimension.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.springer.com/journal/12116
Additional Information: © 2021 The Authors
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2021 09:57
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2021 10:06
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/112449

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