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Meshing motivations : individual and collective action in the Taiwanese legislature


My dissertation explores the tension between parochial and general interests. I argue that general interests attempt to accommodate, or mesh with, parochial interests rather than quash or clash directly with them. I illustrate this logic with evidence from the Taiwanese legislature. The tension between parochial and general interests is a central theme in democratic theory and practice. Systems in which parochial interests dominate are often unworkable because they are often unable to make coherent policy choices and they have difficulty managing common pool resources that belong to the entire nation. Alternatively, when parochial interests are powerless to check the dominant general interest, the country is vulnerable to kings run amok. My dissertation explores the tension between parochial and general interests in the Taiwanese legislature. The goal is both theoretical, to offer a general picture of this tension, and specific, to bring Taiwan into the ambit of comparative legislative studies. I argue that those pursuing general interests know that parochial interests exist and are powerful. Whenever possible, general interests seek to avoid direct conflict with parochial interests. Instead, they prefer to mesh, incorporating the parochial interests into their legislative projects to the extent that this does not mean sacrificing their own core interests. I show multiple ways in which parties in Taiwan, like those elsewhere, accommodate parochial interests rather than attempting to suppress them or clash directly with them. I model legislators as agents of two principals, their parties, who represent general, national, and ideological interests, and their constituents, who represent local, parochial, and particularist interests. Each of these principals can sanction the legislator, aiding or damaging her prospects for re-election. In a multiple principals framework, the challenge for the agent is to maximize positive sanctions net of negative sanctions. Parties help their members both directly - by giving positive sanctions for working toward party goals - and indirectly - by helping them to win positive sanctions and avoid negative sanctions from constituents. Parties accomplish this latter task by making it easier or more difficult for constituents to monitor their legislators' actions in different stages of the legislative process

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