Investigate principal–agent relationships in your political context. Examples of possible relationships include the delegation of education policy to a specialist committee, or the delegation of trade policy to the European Union. What is the principal–agent relationship that you have chosen, and why has the decision been made to delegate to the agent for this policy issue? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this principal–agent relationship? What strategies do you think the principal could implement to reduce opportunistic behavior from the agent?

Examples of a principal-agent relationship in the political arena include the president and their cabinet members and voters and the people that they elect to represent them in Congress.

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There are numerous examples of the principal-agent relationship in the political arena. The president is a politician who appoints numerous people to work on their behalf. When former President Donald Trump appointed Mark Esper to be his secretary of defense, he did so with the presumption that Esper would be his agent. Esper would carry out the policies of his principal (Trump). Yet when Esper expressed beliefs that deviated from Trump’s—including the use of military force on Black Lives Matter protesters—that seemed to supply Esper with a semblance of independence. He was not simply an agent for Trump, which is why, according to some reports, Trump finally fired him.

Another way to think about the principal-agent relationship in the context of politics is via voters and the politicians who are supposed to represent them. Ideally, the voters should be the principals and the members of Congress should be the agents. They should be passing laws and formulating policies that benefit the people (the principals) who put them into office. However, a fair amount of people have come to believe that a majority of politicians aren’t acting as agents of voters. The common thinking goes that the real principal in this principal-agent relationship, whether the agent is a Democrat or a Republican, is corporate wealth and big money.

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