Principled Agents
Published on: August 2, 2013
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  • Anthony

    Delegated discretion subsumes asymmetry in that principals can never be certain of agent information, social norm, and/or focus (this is where monitoring and punishing comes in). The principal-agent organizational model presents a framework but institutional norms, patterns, and embedded behaviors as well as multidirectional feedback loops infer adaptation. Also as implied, framework may require various modifications depending upon its use in public and private organizations given potential for goal conflict – profit motive vs. public provision.

  • victoria wilson- mn

    I was happy to read that you will be writing on questions of implementation, of the mechanics of government and not the philosophies that guide them. If there is a truth about how societies organize themselves in the delivery of public goods it should be universal and not subject to a particular religion, race, or powerful faction. Passions about normative issues have, as you noted, undermined the proper examination of public administration.

    There also seems to be a struggle acknowledging the value of cooperative behavior. Activities guided by social norms are implied to be of a non-rational nature and certainly non-market. They are portrayed as optional at times yet then said to be securely enforced by social pressures. And for those who can only see the value of self-interested motives, there is always Macur Olson’s thesis seeming to confirm that groups will eventually cease to work in their own interest.

    Your article gives an example of the development of cooperative behavior, naming it organizational culture. And goes on to state that economists “puzzle about how to solve the problem of hidden or joint output. “ One must assume that the economists, in their efforts, are endorsing this as an economic activity and one that they hope to quantify. So workers who cover each other’s work load when one is ill, or help each other move, or support an inexperienced worker with extra training are creating within their group something of value.

    Maybe it is time to accept that cooperative behavior is rational; is of value; and is as reliably entered into as self-interest led behavior. Maybe for the purposes of investigating this subject we could assume that economic activities can be motivated in two ways: by self interest or by group interest. There is no ‘embedding’ of social norms but a clear distinction between efforts to improve one’s situation and the efforts to improve the group’s situation.

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