Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 3 > Issue 2

A Theory of Policy Expertise

Steven Callander, Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, scal@kellogg.northwestern.edu
Suggested Citation
Steven Callander (2008), "A Theory of Policy Expertise", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 3: No. 2, pp 123-140. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00007024

Publication Date: 29 Jul 2008
© 2008 S. Callander
Public policy,  Bureaucracy,  Legislatures


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In this article:
Policy Processes and Expertise 
Issue Complexity and Delegation 
Appendix: Asymmetric Costs of Expertise 


The role of expertise in policy making has been a focus of political science research in recent decades. Underlying formal models in this area is a conception of expertise that is very simple: expertise is a single piece of information. Combined with a condition on the set of possible processes, this simplicity implies that expertise is invertible. Thus, a single recommendation by an expert can render a layperson an expert. In this paper, I offer a broader representation of expertise and policy making that relaxes these features. To demonstrate that this generality matters to political behavior, I develop a simple model of delegation and show that imperfect invertibility of expertise provides a resolution of the commitment problem of legislative–bureaucratic policy making. The theory predicts that only issues of sufficient complexity can be delegated, consistent with anecdotal evidence.