The delegation of executive, judicial, and legislative (agenda-setting) functions to political agents, and the principal-agent problems that invariably result from such acts of delegation, are a generic feature of both domestic and international political life. Although first explored systematically by political scientists in the study of American regulatory agencies and Congressional committees, the phenomenon of delegation is also inherent in the domestic politics of other countries, including the parliamentary systems of Europe which can be theorized as 'chains of delegation' leading from mass electorates to parliamentarians to government ministers and thence to the civil servants who actually implement policies in the name of the people, their ultimate principals. In recent years, moreover, the explicit delegation of political power in many domestic polities has accelerated, as a growing number of developed and developing countries experiment with the creation of independent regulatory agencies and central banks. 1 Delegation is not, however, limited to domestic politics but plays an important role in international politics as well, with the increasing delegation of power by states to an ever-growing number of international executives, secretariats, development banks, dispute-resolution bodies, and tribunals and courts in the European Union and beyond.
In this book, I have drawn on theories of delegation, agency, and agenda setting in American politics to develop and test hypotheses about the delegation of powers by member-state principals to supranational organizations and about the effects of such delegation in terms of supranational agency and agenda setting in the European Union. Simplifying only slightly, I have argued that EU member governments delegate to the European Commission and the European Court of Justice—but not to the European Parliament—for essentially the same transaction-cost reasons that motivate national legislators to delegate