Legislating International Organization: The US Congress, the IMF, and the World Bank

By Kathryn C. Lavelle | Go to book overview

8
Conclusions

Global institutions require support from formal domestic political institutions in order to flourish. In recent years, studies of global governance have explored the operations of transnational networks and IOs operating across state boundaries.1 Yet the endpoint of most major decisions concerning funding and programs remains within the institutions of member states, particularly legislatures, which have not received a great deal of either theoretical or empirical attention. This investigation into Congress has shown that the relationship between the legislature and multilateral organizations poses a challenge to American democracy because it distorts the complex balancing arrangements designed by the Constitution’s framers to diffuse and limit the exercise of power. Features of accountability and the checks and balances unique to American democracy need to be incorporated into the multilateral framework. To get requisite legislation passed, therefore, some degree of congressional advocacy toward the IMF and World Bank is a necessary component of successful multilateral cooperation. When using congressional levers, individual members bring together ideas and material interests to pursue specific policy goals. As in the domestic process, even one powerful lawmaker who chooses to pursue a specific policy objective can appear to hamstring an outcome in an IO by manipulating legislative procedure. Yet in the absence of congressional involvement, these same IOs would lack a crucial independent accountability mechanism, with its unique power to drive change from the outside.2

Given the existing degree of apathy and opposition to IFIs in Congress, how is it that the US joined them and has provided funding at all? This history has shown that there is not one fixed resolution to the puzzle. All three institutions are in a constant state of change emanating from both internal and external causes. That is, there has not been one IMF, one World Bank, or one Congress from 1945 to the present. Studies of the intersection of domestic and international politics acknowledge that the “second image” can reverse, or that international factors can cause domestic outcomes and domestic factors can influence the state system.3 The interaction of national and international politics has meant that constituencies for the IFIs have materialized and receded in response to the structure of the world political economy, chiefly the emergence

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