This paper develops a model in which a desire to avoid criticism prompts otherwise public-spirited bureaucrats to behave inefficiently. Decisions are taken to keep interest groups quiet and to keep mistakes out of the public eye. The policy implications of this "minimal squawk" behavior are at odds with the view that agencies should be structured to minimize the threat of "capture." An empirical test using data from US State Public Utility Commissions rejects the capture hypothesis and is consistent with the squawk hypothesis: longer PUC terms of office are associated with a higher incidence of rate reviews and lower household electricity bills.
The American Economic Review is a general-interest economics journal. The journal is published quarterly and contains articles on a broad range of topics. Established in 1911, the AER is among the nation's oldest and most respected scholarly journals in the economics profession.