What is MLG? Most accounts focus on the dispersal of power from the centre to (a) other levels of government; and (b) non-governmental actors. Governance suggests a blurred distinction between formal and informal (or public and private) modes of decision-making
Richards and Smith 2004 A key tenet of multi-level governance is the dispersal of authority and decision- making to a wide range of bodies through a process of negotiation. The net effect is that policy-making has been transformed from being state-centred and statedriven activity to become a complex mix of hierarchies, networks and markets (Richards and Smith, 2004).
Pierre and Stoker Twenty years ago political institutions and political leaders were much more self-reliant and it was assumed – for good reasons- that the state governed Britain. Today, the role of government in the process of governance is much more contingent. Local, regional and national political elites alike seek to forge coalitions with private businesses, voluntary associations and other societal actors to mobilize resources across the public-private border in order to enhance their chances of guiding society towards politically defined goals (Pierre and Stoker, 2000).
Loss of centralisation? Literature on hollowing out stresses the adverse/ unintended effects of new public management and state reforms in the UK: Less control of privatised industries Expansion of organisations in service delivery Purchaser-provider split in NHS Next steps reforms undermines senior/ junior civil service communication (Lecture 6)
MLG exponents less worried: While there is a view that states are losing control in the context of governance, the alternative view focuses on new state strategies for coping with the challenge of governance Debates on level of central control But still the idea that there is no rational central actor Same reactions to problem of incomplete centralisation Positive approach (e.g. Hooghe and Marks) to MLG akin to Lindbloms emphasis on benefits of muddling through? Highlights prescriptive as well as descriptive elements of MLG
Where did it come from? Originally used when studying the EU which: Neither resembles domestic politics nor international organizations, and therefore defies explanation from approaches applied either to politics within states or politics between states …multi-level governance has been seen to capture the shifting and uncertain patterns of governance within which the EU is just one actor upon a contested stage.
MLG studies as the EU developed Early focus on member states as gatekeepers The move to qualified majority voting in some areas and development of EU institutions highlighted the role of the EU as an actor as well as arena for change Structural policy reform enhanced the ability of sub-national authorities to maintain direct links with the EU Also note the application of policy networks analysis
Relevance outside the EU At the very least, multi-level government issues common to any system with dual aim of devolving decisions but maintaining central control Survey of 75 developing countries – 63 have undergone decentralization (compared to half of EU since 1980) Similar developments in public/ private governance arrangements Rise in importance of supra-national organisations
Literature Bridges EU and US studies? Common theme of entangled issues IGR focus on country differences – federal, unitary, union state? Strength of the centre? Frequency and effect of formal dispute resolution? MLG focus on blurred public/ private boundaries and informal negotiation Combination confirms widespread finding – difference between power as capacity and its exercise. Need for detailed analysis to gauge outcomes
Bridging literatures by prescription? There is agreement that governance has become (and should be) multi-level, with the most useful debates about how to disperse power from a central authority, rather than whether or not it is desirable Large government territories may be able to exploit economies of scale, internalise externalities, raise taxes and redistribute, extend the scope of security and markets ….
But: 1.Economies of scale only apply to capital-intensive public goods in which the costs of provision can be spread over a large output. Less applicable to labour intensive, locally provided services 2.Externalities vary immensely – from pollution felt globally to street lighting felt locally. With the latter the need to address externalities is outweighed by the benefits of devolved governance:
A greater ability to address the heterogeneity of preferences of citizens (assuming this can be done with territorial devolution) A closeness between decision –maker and the affected population which helps make credible policy commitments based on local knowledge The benefits of competition between authorities The scope for innovation within a larger number of authorities
Optimal MLG The optimal number of political jurisdictions will approximate the number of government policies if, as is likely in practice, those policies are subject to different economies of scale (and/or if they evoke sufficiently different patterns of citizen preference). This is absolute multi-level governance.
MLG also applied to UK Alternative to the Westminster Model which emphasises: The reliance on representative democracy and parliamentary rather than popular supremacy except during elections. The first-past-the-post electoral system allows an exaggerated majority and party control over Parliament. The power of the prime minister to control cabinet and hence ministers. A politically-neutral civil service whose decisions are made on the basis of, or anticipation of, ministerial wishes.
MLG criticisms of WM Its over-emphasis on the political elite, its narrow conception of politics, its simplistic assumptions about the location and focus of power leading to false dualities (eg cabinet v prime ministerial power, politicians v judiciary, etc.) and its essentially insular (domestic focus) MLG alternative contrasts with WM over range of indicators:
Westminster ModelMulti-level polity Centralised StateDisaggregated State General Principles HierarchyHeterarchy ControlSteering Clear lines of accountability Multiple lines of Accountability External Dimensions Absolute SovereigntyRelative Sovereignty British Foreign PolicyMultiple Foreign Policies Internal Dimensions Unitary StateQuasi-federal state Parliamentary SovereigntyInter-institutional bargaining Strong ExecutiveSegmented executive Direct GovernanceDelegated Governance Unified Civil ServiceFragmented civil service Political ConstitutionQuasi-judicial constitution British Foreign PolicyMultiple foreign policies
But note the variation in types of MLG: No agreement about how multi-level governance should be organized: Should jurisdictions be designed around particular communities, or should they be designed around particular policy problems? Should jurisdictions bundle competencies, or should they be functionally specific? Should jurisdictions be limited in number, or should they proliferate? Should jurisdictions be designed to last, or should they be fluid?
Type 1 Limited dispersal of authority to small number of discrete units (each with associated executive, legislature, court system) Policies are bundled in a small number of packages (with some inevitable overlaps in practice) Relationships are durable E.g. EU-UK-Scotland-Local authorities
Type 2 Devolution on a policy rather than territorial basis – task specific jurisdictions Large number of authorities Overlapping memberships Less stable/ more flexible arrangements Examples from Switzerland and US. Closest in UK is quango state (only descriptively)?
Disclaimer before link discussion Exaggeration of move from government to governance? Policy communities/ networks literature stressed private management of public business for decades (lecture 6.2) Only the Europe part of the multi-level bit that is new? Or significant difference following hollowing out?
Links to other lectures Obvious link to rationality. Lack of core decision-maker. Difficult to identify policy aims in terms of the values of the decision-maker No way to track all possible effects of policy measures (since implementation never assured) Power dispersed suggests mutual adjustment/ incrementalism? Although Type 2 MLG is all about dynamic, flexible arrangements. Similar prescriptive discussion
Agenda-Setting Relevance of venue shift as a strategy for groups and an explanation for policy change despite an established position elsewhere Or more veto-points to obstruct change? MLG makes agenda-setting more complex, with multiple agendas across government and uncertain ability of governments to control them? Agenda-setting also qualifies type 2 discussion – remember that policy areas are not self-evident or self- defining. Suggests our framing of the issue determines the appropriate level of governance (and significance of externalities). Any local issue (e.g. street lighting) can also be a global issue. In other words – difficulty of framing optimal MLG as a technical issue of measurable externalities
Policy Transfer MLG complicates discussion – not straightforward adoption by central government with ensured success On the other hand, we may also see a greater scope for transfer and learning: (a) at policy specific levels of government, in which professionals or experts engage in international networks; (b) across devolved governments within a single political system, as some authorities innovate and others follow.
Policy communities MLG based on networks analysis But note basis for identification of power/ decision-making within policy communities in norms and similar attitudes to policy (quote next slide) Without these norms/ agreements are there the same incentives for governments to trade and groups to cooperate? So is governance a problem or an opportunity?
Pierre and Stoker (2000: 43) It is not clear that most of those involved in government have the capacity – or, indeed, even the desire – to behave in tune with a governance mission statement and governing style.
Issues with MLG Careful with definition – not just multi-level government Does MLG suggest pluralism? Or policy- making from the bottom-up (see literature on interpretive accounts) Or is there asymmetry suggested by the reconstituted state …..
Asymmetric Power Model Features Structured inequality in British society A top-down view of democracy in central government The key resources still lie with the PM and chancellor. The constraints on executive power should not be exaggerated. So, while exchange relationships exist between governmental and non-governmental actors, these should be place within the context of Asymmetry. That is, governments have more resources than others and this determines the balance of power within modes of governance.
Debate Rejoinder that structured inequalities exist but the power is not exercised? Is this because it cant be, or is it 2 nd face?
If multi-level governance means everything then maybe it means nothing Hooghe and Marks point to convergence in thinking but also the scope for a huge range of divergent practices. So what is the common element? Suggests that country-level studies as important as ever Optimal distribution only possible with rational actor devoid of politics?