The Journal of Politics


Delegation and Accountability

Justin Foxa1 and Stuart V. Jordana2

a1 Yale University

a2 University of Rochester


Critics of legislative delegation to the bureaucracy worry that delegation undermines the accountability of politicians to voters. This article provides microfoundations for such concerns by examining a model of electoral agency in which legislators can either determine policy directly or delegate policymaking authority to an expert bureaucrat. In our model, when deciding whether to delegate, a politician must consider not only the policy consequences of his delegation decision but also the electoral consequences. We identify conditions under which delegation can provide politicians with an element of plausible deniability which they lack when they determine policy directly. In some circumstances, therefore, voters can be better off when legislators’ ability to delegate is restricted.

(Online publication August 03 2011)


Justin Fox is an assistant professor at Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520.

Stuart V. Jordan is an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627.