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The Politics of Structural Choice in a One-Party State: The Case of Wildlife Policy in Zambia

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Gibson, Clark C.
Date: 1994
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4256
Sector: Wildlife
Region: Africa
Subject(s): wildlife
Abstract: "Many scholars and practitioners see the activities of public agencies as remedies to society's collective dilemmas. Work in the new institutional economics, however, has challenged this conceptualization. Rather than view bureaucracies as solutions to collective action problems, some new institutionalists conceptualize public agencies as a means by which political winners can impose their favored distributive outcomes on the rest of society. Further, some scholars assert the structural design of public agencies can be explained by reference to their political and distributive features. "This paper employs and extends this approach. I argue that the design of public agencies can be explained by examining their designers' strategic choices under two important constraints: the designers' original share of public authority, and the pattern of political uncertainty generated by a particular system of government. "I apply this theory to the case of Zambian wildlife policy in the 1980s. Following the dramatic increase in poaching rates in Zambia in the 1970s and 1980s, individuals and interest groups attempted to create new wildlife programs that could circumvent the influence of party and government officials who, using wildlife as a resource for patronage politics, routinely thwarted attempts to strengthen conservation laws. The designers of these new programs chose structural arrangements to increase their share of public authority and to insulate their programs from political uncertainty of a one-party state, at the expense of promulgated aims such as conservation, local participation, and bureaucratic 'efficiency.' "The study underscores the importance of the distributive nature of public agencies, the political interests of bureaucrats, and the place of structural choice in policy analysis."

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