Punctuated Equilibrium in Comparative Perspective

Authors


  • Some of the data used here were originally collected by Frank R. Baumgartner and Bryan D. Jones, with the support of National Science Foundation grant number SBR 9320922, and were distributed through the Center for American Politics and Public Policy at the University of Washington and/or the Department of Political Science at Penn State University. Neither NSF nor the original collectors of the data bear any responsibility for the analysis reported here. The authors express their appreciation to the NSF and their respective universities for previous support which makes this analysis possible. Baumgartner also expresses his thanks to the Camargo Foundation and Sciences-Po Cevipof for generous support during the period this article was written.

Frank R. Baumgartner is Professor of Political Science, Richard Richardson Distinguished/University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 25799-3265 (Frankb@unc.edu). Christian Breunig is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto, Sidney Smith Hall, Room 3060, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada (c.breunig@utoronto.ca). Christoffer Green-Pedersen is Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (cgp@ps.au.dk). Bryan D. Jones is J. J. “Jake” Pickle Regents Chair in Congressional Studies, Department of Government, University of Texas, 1 University Station A1800 Austin, TX 78712-0119 (bdjones@austin.utexas.edu). Peter Bjerre Mortensen is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (peter@ps.au.dk). Michiel Nuytemans is Research Assistant in Political Science at the University of Antwerp, Sint-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium (michiel.nuytemans@ua.ac.be). Stefaan Walgrave is Professor in Political Science at the University of Antwerp, Sint-Jacobsstraat 2, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium (Stefaan.walgrave@ua.ac.be).

Abstract

We explore the impact of institutional design on the distribution of changes in outputs of governmental processes in the United States, Belgium, and Denmark. Using comprehensive indicators of governmental actions over several decades, we show that in each country the level of institutional friction increases as we look at processes further along the policy cycle. Assessing multiple policymaking institutions in each country allows us to control for the nature of the policy inputs, as all the institutions we consider cover the full range of social and political issues in the country. We find that all distributions exhibit high kurtosis values, significantly higher than the Normal distribution which would be expected if changes in government attention and activities were proportionate to changes in social inputs. Further, in each country, those institutions that impose higher decision-making costs show progressively higher kurtosis values. The results suggest general patterns that we hypothesize to be related to boundedly rational behavior in a complex social environment.

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