A case study of bureaucratic discretion: heterogeneous application of market entry regulation in Germany
Runst, P. (2021). A case study of bureaucratic discretion: heterogeneous application of market entry regulation in Germany. Journal of Institutional Economics, 1-20.
All law is relatively coarse after its initial implementation as the legislature cannot foresee all contingencies that can arise in the actual application of the law. Therefore, decisions need to be made by street-level administrators as novel and particular circumstances arise. Economists have largely ignored the political science literature on street-level bureaucrats, such as policemen, welfare case managers, or regulatory agents. I present a case study in the context of market entry regulation in Germany. Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests that bureaucratic discretion exists, that is, administrative actions can be found on different ends of a decision space, and that its effects are potentially large. Administrators do not apply legislation in a uniform manner and we observe a systematically different application of rules across subnational jurisdictions.