I. The Bureaucrats (468-473)
A. Some Bureaucratic Myths and Realities
The most prevalent myths about bureaucracy are that 1) Americans dislike bureaucrats, 2) Bureaucracies are growing bigger each year, 3) Most federal bureaucrats work in Washington, D.C., and 4) Bureaucracies are ineffective, inefficient, and always mired in red tape. A plurality of all federal civilian employees works for just a few federal agencies.
B. Who They Are and How They Got There
There are nearly three million civilian bureaucrats. The permanent bureaucracy is more broadly representative of the American people than are legislators, judges, or presidential appointees in the executive branch. There is a diversity of bureaucratic jobs.
Until about one hundred years ago, a person got a job in government through the patronage system (hiring and promotion based on knowing the right people). The Pendleton Civil Service Act (1883) created the federal Civil Service. All civil service systems are based on the merit principle (using entrance exams and promotion ratings to reward qualified individuals) to create a nonpartisan government service. The Hatch Act prohibits civil service employees from active participation in partisan politics while on duty. The Office of Personnel Management is in charge of hiring for most agencies of the federal government. Each job is assigned a GS (General Schedule) rating with salaries keyed to rating and experience. Members of the Senior Executive Service earn high salaries and may be moved from one agency to another. Civil servants are protected from dismissals that are politically motivated. Firing incompetents is hard work.
The plum book lists the top federal jobs available for direct presidential appointment, often with Senate confirmation. Once in office, these administrative policymakers constitute a government of strangers whose most important trait is their transience. Many find it a challenge to exercise real control over much of what their subordinates do and leave their mark on policy.
II. What They Do: Some Theories of Bureaucracy (473-475)
According to Max Weber, a bureaucracy depends on a hierarchical authority structure, task specialization, and extensive rules. Bureaucracies also operate on the merit principal and behave impersonally. The acquisitive, monopolistic theory of bureaucracy argues that bureaucracies are essentially acquisitive, busily maximizing their budgets and expanding their powers. They are also typically monopolies. No matter how the bureaucracy behaves, it will not lose its clients. Critics of bureaucracy have favored privatizing some bureaucratic services. The garbage can theory of bureaucracies argues that they are ambling and groping, affected by chance and loosely run. Bureaucracies have lots of ideas floating around and often solutions are in search of problems rather than the other way around.
III. How Bureaucracies Are Organized (475-479)
A. The Cabinet Departments
A secretary chosen by the president and approved by the Senate heads each of the fourteen cabinet departments. Each department has a unique mission and is organized somewhat differently. The real work of a department is done in the bureaus, which divide the work into more specialized areas.
B. The Regulatory Agencies
Each independent regulatory agency has responsibility for some sector of the economymaking and enforcing rules designed to protect the public interest. Their powers are far-reaching. Small commissions, whose members cannot be fired by the president, govern independent regulatory agencies. Interest groups consider the rule making by independent regulatory agencies very important. Critics argue that the regulators have been captured by the regulatees because members of commissions are often drawn from the ranks of the regulated.
C. The Government Corporations
Government corporations provide a service that could be handled by the private sector and typically charge for their services. Examples include the Tennessee Valley Authority, U.S. Postal Service, and Amtrak.
D. The Independent Executive Agencies
Independent executive agencies are essentially all the rest of the government, appointed by the president and serve at his will.
IV. Bureaucracies as Implementors (479-487)
A. What Implementation Means
Bureaucracies are essentially implementors of policy. They develop procedures and rules for implementing policy goals and manage the routines of government. Public policies are rarely self-executing. Congress typically announces the goals of a policy in broad terms, sets up an administrative apparatus, and leaves the bureaucracy the task of working out the details of the program. Policy implementation is the stage of policymaking between the establishment of a policy and the consequences of the policy for the people whom it affects. Implementation includes three elements: 1) creation of a new agency or assignment of responsibility to an old agency, 2) translation of policy goals into operational rules of thumb, and 3) coordination of resources and personnel to achieve the goals.
B. Why the Best-Laid Plans Sometimes Flunk the Implementation Test
Well-intended policies may fail for several reasons. First, it is impossible to implement a policy with faulty program design that is defective in its basic theoretical conception. Second, policies often lack clarity since Congress is fond of stating a broad policy goal and leaving implementation up to the bureaucracies. Not only are goals unclear, they may also be contradictory. Third, bureaucracies often lack resources, such as staff, supplies, and equipment, to carry out the tasks they have been assigned to do. Agencies may also lack the authority to meet their responsibilities. Fourth, administrative routine may get in the way of effective implementation. Bureaucrats follow standard operating procedures that save time and bring uniformity to complex organizations. Routines sometimes become frustrating to citizens when they do not appear to appropriately address a situation. Sometimes an agency simply fails to establish routines that are necessary to complete its task. Fifth, Administrators dispositions may also be a barrier to implementation. Administrative discretion is the authority of administrative actors to select among various responses to a given problem. Street-level bureaucrats (those who are in constant contact with the public) have considerable discretion. Ultimately, how they use discretion depends on their dispositions about the policies and rules they administer. Controlling discretion is difficult because it is not easy to fire bureaucrats in the civil service. In the absence of positive and negative incentives, the government relies heavily on rules to limit the discretion of implementors. Often these rules end up creating new obstacles to effective and efficient governing. Sixth, fragmentation and the diffusion of responsibility make the coordination of policies time-consuming and difficult. Sometimes those who are supposed to comply with a law receive contradictory signals from different agencies. It is not easy to reorganize the bureaucracies to correct this phenomenon.
C. A Case Study: The Voting Rights Act of 1965
The 1965 Voting Rights Act represents a successful case of implementation because its goal was clear (to register large numbers of African-American voters); its implementation was straightforward (sending out people to register them); and the authority of the implementors was clear (they had the support of the attorney general and even U.S. marshals) and concentrated in the Justice Department, which was disposed to implementing the law vigorously.
V. Bureaucracies as Regulators (487-492)
A. Regulation in the Economy and in Everyday Life
Government regulation is the use of governmental authority to control or change some practice in the private sector. Everyday life is the subject of bureaucratic regulation. Almost all bureaucratic agencies are in the regulatory business.
B. Regulation: How it Grew, How it Works
In 1877, the Supreme Court upheld the right of government to regulate the business operations of a firm. In 1887 Congress created the first regulatory agency. All regulation contains three elements, first, a grant of power and set of directions from Congress; second a set of rules and guidelines by the regulated agency often developed in consultation with the people or industries being regulated; and third some means of enforcing compliance with congressional goals and agency regulations. Regulation of the American economy and society has grown in recent decades.
C. Toward Deregulation
The idea behind deregulation is that the number and complexity of regulatory policies have made regulation too complex and burdensome. Opponents of the regulatory system argue that it raises prices, hurts Americas competitive position abroad, and does not always work well. Both conservatives and liberals have pushed for deregulation. Others argue that many regulations have proved beneficial to Americans.
VI. Understanding Bureaucracies (492-497)
A. Bureaucracies and Democracies
Bureaucracies constitute one of Americas two unelected policymaking institutions. This does not mean that bureaucracies cannot respond to and represent the publics interests. Presidents try to impose their policy preferences on agencies by 1) appointing the right people to head the agency; 2) issuing executive orders; 3) tinkering with an agencys budget; and 4) reorganizing an agency. Congress can take measures to oversee the bureaucracy, such as, 1) influencing the appointment of agency heads; 2) tinkering with an agencys budget; 3) holding hearings; and 4) rewriting the legislation or making it more detailed.
Presidents and Congress find it difficult to control bureaucracies because agencies have strong ties to interest groups and congressional committees and subcommittees. These close ties are often called iron triangles or subgovernments. Iron triangles can influence policies, often resulting in contradictory policies. Hugh Heclo points out that the system of subgovernments is now overlayed with an amorphous system of issue networks. There is now more widespread participation in bureaucratic policymaking, and many of the participants have technical policy expertise and are interested in issues because of intellectual or emotional commitments rather than material interests. Subgovernments are not indestructible.
B. Bureaucracy and the Scope of Government
Some observers view the bureaucracy as acquisitive, constantly seeking to expand its size, budgets, and authority. However, the federal bureaucracy has not grown over the past two generations. The federal bureaucracy has actually shrunk in size relative to the population it serves. Government is now expected to play an active role in dealing with social and economic problems. A good case can be made that the bureaucracy is actually too small for many of the tasks currently assigned to it. In addition, when the president and Congress chose to deregulate certain areas of the economy or cut taxes, the bureaucracy could not and did not prevent it from doing so.