Strategic Delegation and the Fast Track Authority

Strategic delegation is not something you’re going to read about on the cover of a major newspaper. However, delegation of powers between the President and Congress are slowly changing how our elected representatives flex their political muscle. When one branch delegates its powers to another, it changes the potential for maximizing utility among the electorate. I want to investigate why elected leaders would want to delegate their power and what effects it might have on the welfare of their constituents.

I’m going to start by analysis by looking at the Fast Track Authority (FTA). The FTA allowed Presidents to create international agreements that Congress cannot amend or filibuster (only approve or disapprove).  It played a crucial role during the negotiations of numerous trade agreements between 1975 and 1994 and again from 2002 to 2007.  The switching ‘on and off’ of this Presidential power lends itself to an analysis of how the substance of trade agreements was affected by the FTA.Numerous successful and highly publicized trade agreements were made possible because of the FTA. In fact, it was so successful that some countries refuse to negotiate trade agreements with the US unless the FTA is enacted. For example, the Obama administration has begun negotiating the terms for the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) as if the FTA were still in place. The FTA was, and still continues to be, an extremely important presidential power.

Not much has been written about the FTA or strategic delegation. Additionally, most of what has been written has come from political scientists. My approach will be novel because it will develop a more quantitative analysis of this act. I will try to develop a basic model of decision-making that results from the presence of the FTA.

I hope to expand the scope of my paper by looking at how strategic delegation in other areas of policy making can have positive or negative effects. In some sense, I know where my paper will end up. For anyone who is familiar with Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, a dictatorship is actually the highest form of democracy. In that sense, complete delegation will result in the president being a dictator while also maximizing utility for the electorate. I hope to separate theory from reality by developing a model that might be helpful to elected representatives. For example, would the ideal health care plan occur if the president developed a bill that only congress could approve or disapprove? These are the sorts of questions that I hope to shed some light on by expanding the lessons that I learn from an analysis of the FTA and other delegated authorities. 

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