Administrative Burden

Administrative Burden

Policymaking by Other Means

Pamela Herd, Donald P. Moynihan

When overt changes are unpopular (such as reducing benefits) or not publicly defensible (such as limiting the franchise), or when law constrains desired policy changes (such as Supreme Court decisions on abortion or federal policies in intergovernmental programs), administrative burdens offer a low-profile alternative, minimizing the need for political and legal processes of consultation and deliberation. 86 For example, directly changing social benefits requires legislative battles that will often be relitigated in court. By contrast, constructing complex, confusing, and time-consuming application procedures is a less visible form of policymaking that can effectively thwart people from accessing benefits, even if eligible by law. Because of these qualities, burdens are especially attractive policy instruments if they achieve goals that political actors are reluctant to explicitly acknowledge; they can also operate unobtrusively in policy areas mired by gridlock.

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