Martin Sustrik


Technocratic Plimsoll Line

Here it is (my translation): "You'll get money to distribute at the banks of Loire and three tobacconist shops as well. I even hope to get two postman offices. The finance minister haven't answered yet in this matter, but I'll let you know by telegraph. And moreover, you'll be able to depose almost anyone. You are clever and you will use these rights discreetly." (chapter XLIX)

Technocratic Plimsoll Line

No, it's just a random thought.

Technocratic Plimsoll Line

I think the real difference is in the incentives the person faces. If they need to compete for votes or for the favour of their superiors, they are, basically, in political business. The person may be an expert, yes, but the incentives force them to care less about technical superiority of the solution and more about whether it's palatable to the voters/benefactors.

If instead, you are hired to execute tasks that are handed to you by someone else, you can think: "Well, I can try to be cute and try to satisfy my boss' political preferences, at the expense of the solution, but, on the other hand, he's going to be replaced sooner or later and I'll better have a track record of successful execution so that the next person doesn't fire me."

The boundary is still blurry, but it at least answers the question about the people who rise as technocrats and are then politically selected: Once you are politically selected, your incentives change and you fall into the category of political appointees.

Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat

Looking back at the history of continental Europe, it looks to me we can either have bureaucracy or bureaucracy plus war. Pick one. That being said, it's not so clear to me what went wrong with the EU vaccination strategy. (Admittedly, I haven't been following it closely.) EU did pretty well in its own area, that is coordination. It managed to get the authority to act on behalf of the member states and prevent bidding wars that would otherwise end up with all the vaccines going to Germany and none to Bulgaria. It (as far as I understand) signed cheapskate contracts with the pharma companies and once it became clear that all the contracts cannot be fulfilled the companies have chosen to serve the more lucrative customers first. But on the other hand, I am not sure whether the countries that paid more did consider it a victory back then. It may as well be that they've got lucky just because they had lousy negotiators. Anyway, none of this is related to bureaucracy. The Astra-Zeneca blood clot hysteria, I believe, was a matter of local governments. The only related statements by EU I remember were those declaring the vaccine safe. The vaccination itself is managed by local governments and the problems can not be blamed on EU. The only obvious blunder that comes to mind was the one with threatening to block export of the vaccines to Norther Ireland, but they've backtracked pretty fast on that one.

Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat

Thanks for the feedback!

Unfortunately, the article is mess partly because the events back then were a mess and the entire topic seems to be under-researched. For example, I don't think there's any kind of official narrative for the early history of the EU. Popular understanding, I think, is that WWII was followed by the postwar boom. The entire dark period of 1945-1950 kind of went down the memory hole. (But I'm from the Ostblok, so maybe kids in the West were taught more about it.)

Anyway, I've added couple of links at the end of the article, but again, the events back then were complex and confusing, the resources are in multiple languages etc.

Jean Monnet: The Guerilla Bureaucrat

If I knew. Different international organizations exhibit different kind of failures. For example, for UN it may be the failure to agree, but for EU, as the recent vaccination story shows, agreement can be achieved, but execution may lack. The problem is compounded by the fact that institutions evolve in lockstep with the common knowledge (trust in the institutions and such) and thus exactly the same institutional design may produce vastly different results when applied to different countries or organizations. In the end, the only way to approach this, in my opinion, is to take a concrete organization, choose a specific malfunction and dive deep into nitty-gritty details to find out what's wrong and how it can be solved. Not very enlightening, I know.

All that being said, there's one thing in the article that seems to generalize, namely, the "two layer approach", that is agreeing on the solution to the coordination problem first (on political level), solving concrete issues afterwards (on technical level). The approach is so simple that it can be even expressed in game theoretical language. At the same time it nicely takes into account human psychology (the tendency to use everything at hand as a bargaining chip) and aligns with existing institutional designs (politicians are involved in step 1, bureaucrats in step 2). What's interesting to think about is whether this approach of solving inadequate eqilibria can be somehow built into our existing institutions.

On the Nature of Reputation

Good point about extended names. Yet one more operation that can be done with reputation tokens.

As for the spelling, I've tried to fix what I could. Feel free to point out any remaining typos.

Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking

I am not an economist, so it's hard to me to judge the quality of the paper. In fact, I was just trying to show the kind of argument made for bank independence at the time. Feel free to check the paper for yourself: Section 2. is about measuring the central bank independence.

Democracy, Bureaucracy, Central Banking

Wouldn't that create the same election-cycle-dependent behaviour seen with politically appointed boards?

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