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Principal-agent modelling and learning: the European Commission, experts and agricultural hormone growth promoters
Dunlop, Claire A.
Public Policy and Administration
Principal-agent modelling has become a very influential way of thinking about bureaucratic politics in a wide range of settings. Simple agency models have recently been extended and bureaucratic relationships placed in their wider temporal and socio-political contexts. By developing a conceptualization of principal-agent learning this article offers a nuanced account of the extent to which principals can learn to develop institutions that enhance their political control of bureaucratic agents and predispose those agents toward the principal’s preferences, limiting adverse selection and moral hazard problems. The revised model is applied to the context of the European Commission’s selection and management of scientific committees in the case of agricultural hormone growth promoters. The findings not only confirm the usefulness of more dynamic accounts of principal-agent relationships that eschew ahistoricism and acontextualism, they also suggest that extended principal-agent models should include constraints on learning by principals. In this case the principal’s learning was reactive – relying heavily upon external actors and venues to do their thinking for them.
The case study was informed by Dunlop's doctoral research funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentship R00429834387. Dunlop was the lead author and investigator of the case study. Both authors developed the theoretical aspects of the paper.
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