Call for abstracts special issue Recht der Werkelijkheid | Journal of Empirical Research on Law in Action

The quest for implementation: can governments still get things done?

In the past years much attention is given to policy fiascoes (Bovens & ‘t Hart 1996) as well as to policy successes (‘t Hart & Compton 2019). Recent cases, such as the Child Care Benefit Scandal in the Netherlands, the Long Stay Care Affair in Ireland and the Norwegian ‘Social Security Scandal’ (or NAV-scandal) have highlighted how government decisions are implemented in western societies. Due to different factors, like privatization and deregulation, budget cuts, and the horizontalization of relations between the public sector, markets and communities, the implementing powers of modern government are questioned. 

On the macro level, the analysis of these different scandals focuses on the decrease of parliamentary controls, marginal judicial review by administrative courts and shifting regulatory techniques. Generally speaking, trust in the institutions (for example parliament and government) is decreasing. On the meso level, the implementing powers of government agencies, independent administrative bodies and private executive organizations are facing criticism. Implementation is often hindered by diminishing budgets, staffing problems, conflicts between principals and agents and the everpresent information asymmetry. Enforcement agencies are limited in their actions by guiding policy decisions and lacking independence. On the micro level, street-level bureaucrats, screen-level bureaucrats and system-level bureaucrats come into play. Here the tension between general rules and customization gets to the surface. Do laws and regulations provide for enough margin of appreciation to deliver procedural justice, are civil servants capable of delivering tailor-made decisions? 

This special issue examines implementation from different angles, at macro, meso and micro levels. The main question is: ‘Can governments still get things done?’

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