Discretion is Fractal

Last week, I made a presentation at the Leiden University conference ‘Political Legitimacy and the Paradox of Regulation’ under the admittedly esoteric title ‘Discretion is Fractal’. Despite the title, my point is actually quite simple: one cannot continue to model, conceptualize and measure (administrative or legal) discretion as a linear phenomenon because of the nested structure of legal norms which exhibits self-similarity at different levels of observation. And, yes, this means that law is fractal, too. In the same way there is no definite answer to the question ‘how long is the coast of Britain‘, there can be no answer to the question which legal code provides for more discretion, unless a common yardstick and level of observation is used (which requires an analytic reconstruction of the structure of the legal norms).
The presentation tries to unpack some of the implications of the fractal nature of legal norms and proposes an alternative strategy for measuring discretion. Here is a pdf of the presentation which I hope makes some sense on its own.

Diffusion of smoking bans in Europe

My paper on the diffusion of smoking bans in Europe has been accepted in Public Administration. It probably won’t be published until next year so here is a link to the pre-print and a graph of two of the important results of the paper: the probability of enactment of a more comprehensive (full) smoking ban increases with lower levels of tobacco producton and with rising levels of public support for smoking restrictions:

  And the abstract:

Policy Making Beyond Political Ideology: The Adoption of Smoking Bans in Europe

Policy making is embedded in politics, but an increasing number of issues, like obesity, tobacco control, or road safety, do not map well on the major dimensions of political conflict. This article analyzes the enactment of restrictions on smoking in bars and restaurants in 29 European countries – a conflictual issue which does not fit easily traditional party ideologies. Indeed, the comparative empirical analyses demonstrate that government ideological positions are not associated with the strictness and the timing of adoption of the smoking bans. On the other hand, economic factors like the scale of tobacco production in a country, smoking prevalence in society and public support for tough anti-smoking policy are all significantly related to the time it takes for a country to adopt smoking bans, and to the comprehensiveness and enforcement of these restrictions. In addition, horizontal policy diffusion is strongly implicated in the pattern of policy adoptions.  

More than you ever wanted to know about compliance with EU law in Europe

I  spent the last week finalizing a  review of the literature  on compliance with EU  law at the national level. It was a rather masochistic experience which I had promised  myself never to repeat but alas… This time at least somebody will take note it since I am going to present it next week to a small workshop in Berlin. Here is the abstract:

This article introduces two bibliographical databases that provide systematic overviews of the existing statistical and qualitative academic research on (non)compliance with EU law and takes stock of the state of the art of the literature. Reviewing more than 35 statistical analyses and 80 small-N studies, I find that a small but coherent set of inferences emerges from the scholarship: transposition and practical application of EU law is limited by administrative capacity and prone to domestic conflicts spurred by the adaptation to the European rules. Political institutions influence the potential for such conflict while co-ordination and oversight mechanisms can enhance compliance. Beyond this core account, scholars disagree about the influence of policy misfit, individual preferences of domestic actors and a myriad of other variables being analyzed. I discuss matching, multi-level modeling and better case selection for qualitative studies as ways to move beyond these controversies and deliver more policy-relevant knowledge about the causes of (non)compliance with EU rules.

If you want to read more, here is a link to the full version and a link to a very short summary.