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Political Appointments to Regional Organizations

Julia Gray
Shane Killian
University of Pittsburgh
Open Panel

Abstract

Regional and preferential trade agreements (PTAs) proliferate the world over, yet only a subset of them function well. What domestic factors might explain why the dysfunctional organizations persist? We argue that under certain conditions, executives face incentives to delegate inefficient but politically handy bureaucrats to international organizations. Drawing from the substantial literature on bureaucratic politics and patronage, we develop a formal model that describes the circumstances under which two states in an organization might choose to select bureaucrats that are unskilled in the policy sphere but that allow the executive to exercise patronage. In the event that a PTA has limited potential or if the state actor faces a perverse domestic incentive structure, it is optimal for heads of state to maximize their own political gain from appointments to the organization, rather than to waste a quality bureaucrat on a potentially ineffective organization. This model has far-reaching implications for the study of how international organizations work in practice, and why ineffective organizations persist. Their duration is explained by the private benefits they provide executives, in the form of the loyalty earned from political appointments. We test this argument using original survey data on the effectiveness of regional arrangements