chapter  9
34 Pages

Leadership and Freshman Class Power Relations in the House

The idea of an agent acting on behalf of a principal is a concept that has found extensive application in academic studies (Pratt and Zeckhauser 1985). Political scientists have been especially fond of using this framework in theorizing about a great many things. This theoretical framework is useful for bottom-up theorizing where voters induce preferences in legislative agents (Denzau, Riker, and Shepsle 1985, 1118), as well as in top-down theorizing where leaders appoint experts who are to demonstrate loyalty as well as professionalism. The very nature of representative government stimulates thinking in principal-agent terms. Jacobson and Dimock (1994) use this theoretical framework in their efforts to measure and analyze “shirking”—an activity where legislative “agents” follow their own preferences rather than those of their constituent principals. Sinclair (1995a; 1997) theorizes that congressional party leaders are agents

of members who expect their leaders to be able to serve members’ interests by solving collective action problems.