Proposition 3: For IPAs, Expertise and Information Are More Important Tools Than Rules and Formal Powers
The formulation and implementation of rules that regulate the behavior and interactions of societal actors is a central tool of government (Hood and Margetts 2007; Knill and Bauer 2016). There is no doubt that rules do much to resolve political problems and provide common goods. Rules ensure equality, uniformity, equity, order, and reliability. It is hence hardly surprising that there is a high societal demand that governments tackle political problems by making rules. As already emphasized by Max Weber’s seminal account of the rise of bureaucracy as the key organizing principle for modern societies, bureaucratic machines are not only fueled by rules, but also play a vital role in their mass production (Weber 1976). The standard assumption in the PA literature is not only that rules are the most essential tool of bureaucracies, but also that the authority of the latter rests on their ability to define and enforce legal rules.
Yet, the findings in this book suggest that this assumption might require some modification when we turn to IPAs. Of course, rules are still of crucial relevance at the level of IOs. This refers in particular to the specification of internal guidelines and procedures. However, rules seem to matter to a lesser extent when it comes to the policy-making activities of IPAs. In this regard, legally binding decisions are of minor importance, given the fact that, in many instances, the mandate and legal competencies of IOs are already more restricted than is the case for national governments. This means that the authority of IPAs, constituted through their role in developing and implementing rules, is much lower than that for their national counterparts.
The limited relevance of rules, however, does not mean that the authority of IPAs in general is lower than that of national bureaucracies. Rather, it seems that the authority of IPAs emerges from different sources. More specifically, for IPAs information and expertise are more important than rules in this regard. This becomes apparent not only through the above- mentioned role of IPAs as attention-seekers and information brokers (Chap. 4), but more generally through the analysis provided in Chap. 5, which revisits the concept of authority in order to develop a tool to comparatively study the role of IPAs. Busch and Liese focus on expert authority and how it can be empirically studied, particularly in the area of social exchange and organizational reputation. Their chapter develops the expertise concept as an important feature of IPAs and a precondition for their policy influence.
In many instances, IPAs dispose of considerable substantive and procedural expertise and information with regard to the design and implementation of public policies. This property places IPAs in a strategic position from which to spread information to their political principals and to their organizational environment, as well as to detect and use information provided by actors within their domain. The higher the extent to which an IPA disposes of information and expertise considered essential both within and beyond its organization, the greater its nodality in transnational communication networks. Typically, the policy influence emerging from nodality is based on the publication of data, information, recommendations, and advice. Influence based on nodality is further enhanced by the fact that, in many instances, IPAs form part of epistemic communities understood as transnational networks of professionals with recognized expertise and competence in a particular domain (Haas 1990). Within such communities experts frequently interact and develop joint problem definitions and solutions, enabling new policy ideas to spread like viruses (Dudley and Richardson 2000; Holzinger and Knill 2005; Helgadottir 2016).