I don’t think Michelle and I actually disagree about much substantively in the discussion we are having about congressional independence in Mexico. (See her original post, my response, and her follow up). However, I continue to take issue with her use of the term “monopoly” to describe the information advantage that the executive is said to have on the more technical aspects of some policies.
I don’t dispute that congress as an institution has a shortage of technical information, relative to the executive (as do individual members).
However, Michelle continues to say “monopoly” even as she mentions other sources of information and appears to agree with my point that congress (or, I would say, the parties therein) are likely to continue to increase their independent information sources. Thus there is no monopoly, and there is likely to be less imbalance over time.
It is an empirical question whether the opposition parties in congress (which, note, is not the same thing as saying â€œCongressâ€ or â€œmembers of Congressâ€) have sufficient information with which to build a critique of government policy proposalsâ€”whether that critique is based on technical or ideological grounds. It defies logic that the opposition parties would tolerate an executive monopoly on policies in opposition to which they might want to build some part of their collective reputations. But a logical argument is hardly the same thing as saying something is so. Basically, I am pleading for a research strategy that takes seriously the question of how congress, the parties, and individual members cope with the greater technical capacity currently held by executive ministries, rather than one that assumes Congress lacks independence because the ministries have more technical data than Congress as an institution has.
Regarding Joy Langston’s paper and the question of who are the principals of Mexican deputies, Michelle’s recollection is correct: it is not always so clear. Mexico uses a mixed-member (and relatively majoritarian) electoral system, and its parties are among the worldâ€™s most disciplined in legislative voting. How important are the closed lists for this discipline? (As an aside, I would note that it was Michelle, in the second paragraph of her original post, not me, who first raised the issue of closed lists as a feature that supposedly promotes strong discipline.) In fact, closed lists cannot be the explanation for party discipline in Mexico if the members who are elected from closed lists exhibit no greater aggregate levels of party discipline than those who are elected from single-seat districts (as Weldon shows).
However, if the type of electoral system from which members are elected matters, we might expect some evolutionary change here as a result of which party leaders deputies are taking their cues from. The primary source of party discipline in Mexico is not the electoral system but the control party leaders have over careers, given that deputies (and senators) are ineligible for immediate reelection. But if â€œparty leadersâ€ comes to designate a less cohesive group of actors than in the past, in that they fail to reconcile their divisions over policy and patronage distirbution, we might expect a decrease in discipline. For instance, deputies who are elected from single-seat districts (each of which is contained within a single stateâ€™s boundaries) might become more responsive to state party leaders (including the governor, when a deputy and the governor of his or her state are of the same party). On the other hand, those who are elected from the regional closed-list proportional districts (for which the district lines cross state boundaries) might remain more dependent on national leaders of their party. There is some evidence from Joyâ€™s research that this may be happening.
I thank Michelle for raising this question. Research into policy-making that takes seriously the variance across policy areas and information flows, as well as the institutional incentives for parties, legislators, and legislatures to insert themselves into the process, is very much the cutting edge of the analysis of policy-making. And not only in Mexico.