Imperfect Principals and Lobbyist Agency Costs

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One of the secrets to scholarly success is picking interesting topics. It also helps if your analysis makes an interesting topic even more interesting. That’s exactly what Matthew Stephenson and Howell Jackson have done in their essay Lobbyists as Imperfect Agents: Implications for Public Policy in a Pluralist System, 47 Harv. J. Legis. 1 (2010). In this well-written and engaging essay, Stephenson and Jackson describe how principal-agent problems manifest themselves in the lobbying context and hypothesize on how these manifestations might affect public policy outcomes.

Wherever there are principals and agents, there are principal-agent problems, but the lobbying context is not one that readily comes to mind as infected by a serious problem. Lamenting that principal-agent problems in the lobbying context have not received the attention they deserve, Stephenson and Jackson demonstrate that lobbyists are far from perfect agents and that the principal-agent slack in the relationship has serious consequences for lobbying’s public policy outcomes.

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