“The Dynamics of Bureaucratic Complexity” by Dr. Hongyi LI
Dr. Hongyi LI
School of Economics
The UNSW Australia Business School
The University of New South Wales
We develop a model of incremental policymaking under political conflict. Frictions are generated by within-policy interdependencies: when removing an policy element, the policymaker also has to remove other dependent elements. Inefficient policies emerge via two mechanisms. First, excessive complexity may be produced in the form of kludges: incremental modifications to existing policy that leave fundamental inefficiencies unresolved. Kludges emerge and persist under political conflict between ideologically opposed parties, especially in the presence of institutional frictions. Second, inefficiency may be produced by obstructionist behavior, whereby policymakers deliberately introduce ‘useless’ policy changes to impede future opponents. The model has applications to organisational bureaucracy, public policy, and software development.