Breaking Authoritarian Bonds: The Political Origins of the Taiwan Administrative Procedure Act
Baum, Jeeyang Rhee, Journal of East Asian Studies
Taiwan recently adopted a series of administrative reform laws designed to make the bureaucracy more transparent and allow public participation in regulatory policies. Because administrative reform limits the executive's power, it is clear why legislatures would favor strict administrative procedures. But it is less dear why presidents would support them. The passage of these laws begs the question why presidents support administrative procedural reforms designed to restrict their abilities to act freely. I argue that in Taiwan, President Lee Tenghui's control of his party deteriorated as factional disputes within his own party increased over time. Lee ultimately concluded that the Kuomintang's political survival depended on major reforms. Consequently, the status quo--oriented bureaucracy--hitherto an important source of support for Lee and his key constituencies--became an impediment. Lee supported Taiwan's Administrative Procedure Act in order to reduce the bureaucracy's capacity to impede reform. More generally, I argue that administrative procedures designed to open up the bureaucracy to the public, including previously excluded groups, can serve politicians' goal of redirecting the bureaucracy. Archival data, secondary sources, and interviews with key presidential advisers, senior career bureaucrats, and politicians support my argument.
KEYWORDS: administrative procedures, black-gold politics, bureaucratic transparency, corruption, KMT factions, public participation, Taiwanese politics
Now under the administrative reform by the KMT, there is a second track for appeals: They [citizens] can start at the Executive Yuan [branch]. When people fail there, then they can appeal through the judicial system. In turn, they can face each other and have a debate between the government and the people. In other words, we have created a situation where the third party, or the judiciary, can arbitrate between the people and government. (1)
--Yao Eng-Chi, Vice President, Legislative Yuan (July 15, 2000)
During the past decade, scholars have tried increasingly to understand the origin of the administrative procedures that govern policy implementation. The nature of the procedures used by government agencies to implement statutory mandates not only determines what groups are able to participate in rule-making but also ultimately affects the nature of policy. In the absence of procedures designed to offset it, there is a common tendency for agencies to become "captured," often by the interests they are intended to regulate. One primary effect of procedural openness is that broader interests and those with fewer political resources are enfranchised. Another is that status quo policies become harder to change. Particularly powerful in this regard are statutes that establish procedures to be used by all agencies, across all policy areas. In the United States, the primary statute of this type is the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of 1946. Many other countries have APA-like laws, but many do not.
Taiwan recently adopted a series of administrative reform laws, including an APA, designed to make the executive branch more transparent and allow public participation in regulatory policies. For example, agencies are required to notify the public, incorporate public comments, and hold public hearings during the policymaking process. These procedural requirements empower individual citizens and organized interest groups to actively voice their opinions about virtually every government decision. By enfranchising new segments of society, the APA increases monitoring, predictability, and public influence over agency decisions. Yet, they also inhibit presidents' freedom of action. Thus, the passage of these laws suggests a puzzle. Why would a president voluntarily tie his or her own hands by supporting an APA, thereby limiting his capacity to unilaterally pass his preferred policies? …