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Punctuated equilibrium in French budgeting processes

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We use data on French budgeting to test models of friction, incrementalism and punctuated equilibrium. Data include the overall state budget since 1820; ministerial budgets for seven ministries since 1868; and a more complete ministerial series covering ten ministries since 1947. Our results in every case are remarkably similar to the highly leptokurtic distributions that Jones and Baumgartner (2005) demonstrated in US budgeting processes. This suggests that general characteristics of administrative processes create friction, and that these general factors are more important than particular details of organizational design. The legendary centralization and administrative strength of the French state, especially when compared to the decentralized separated powers structure of the US system, where the theory was developed, is apparently not sufficient to overcome cognitive pressures causing friction. Further, our French data cover a wide range of institutional procedures and constitutional regimes. The similarity of our findings across all these settings suggests that administrative structures alone are less important than the cognitive reasons discussed in the original model.
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Keywords: Agenda-setting; France; budgeting; incrementalism; public policy; punctuated equilibrium

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2006

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