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Chapter 11. The Bureaucracy. What is a Bureaucracy?. A large organization structured hierarchically to carry out specific functions Private bureaucracies exist within organizations like corporations Have a single set of leaders; serve shareholders; driven by profit motive

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Chapter 11 l.jpg
Chapter 11

The Bureaucracy

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What is a Bureaucracy?

  • A large organization structured hierarchically to carry out specific functions

  • Private bureaucracies exist within organizations like corporations

    • Have a single set of leaders; serve shareholders; driven by profit motive

  • Public bureaucracies exist within organizations like governments

    • Typically have multiple sets of leaders (Congress, president, etc.); serve citizens; driven by needs of citizens

  • Federal bureaucracy grounded in Article II, Sections 2 and 3

  • Why bureaucracy? Increasing complexity of society, economy; increasing demands for government responsiveness; Congress does not have time or expertise to oversee administration of all of its statutes; delegates to specialized agencies

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Models of Bureaucracy

  • Weberian model = bureaucracy a response to increasing social complexity and demands

    • Hierarchical

    • Formal procedures

    • Power flows from top down

    • Advancement on merit

    • Bureaucrats are specialists, professionals

    • Decisions made based on logical reasoning and data analysis

  • Acquisitive model = top-level bureaucrats seek greater funding, staffs, and privileges to increase their power

  • Monopolistic model = bureaucracies are inefficient and costly; lack competition

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© 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™

Fed, State, Local employmentFigure 11-1

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© 2004 Wadsworth Publishing / Thomson Learning™

Fed agencies and civilian employees

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Organization of the Federal Government

  • Cabinet Departments (15 departments of executive branch, aka executive departments)

  • Independent Executive Agencies (not part of cabinet department); report directly to president


  • Independent Regulatory Agencies (outside major executive departments, which makes rules, regulations to protect public interest)


  • Government Corporations (quasi-business enterprise)

    • TVA, FDIC, Ex-Im Bank, Amtrak, Postal Service

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Independent Regulatory Agencies

  • Have legislative, executive, and judicial functions (make rules/laws, enforces them, and adjudicate disputes)

  • Members (cannot all be from same party) appointed by the president and approved by the Senate

  • Can only be removed by the president for just cause

  • Agency capture = direct or indirect control over agency by industry being regulated resulting in less competition, higher prices, and less consumer choice

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Staffing the Bureaucracy

  • Two categories of bureaucrats = political appointees and civil servants

  • Political appointees (patronage)

    • “Aristocracy” of the federal government

    • Often just figureheads

  • Civil Service (permanent)

    • Difficult to dismiss

    • Typically less than .1% per year fired for incompetence

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History of the Federal Civil Service

  • Jeffersonian “natural aristocracy”

  • Jacksonian Spoils system

  • Civil Service Reform Act of 1883

    • Professional/Merit system (appointments based on competitive exams) (now covers up to 90% of bureaucracy)

    • Civil Service Commission

  • Hatch Act of 1939

    • Prohibited federal employees from participating in campaigns (amended by Federal Employees Political Activities Act of 1993)

  • Civil Service Reform Act of 1978

    • Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

    • Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)

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Modern Bureaucratic Reform

  • Sunshine laws (1976) – requires multihead federal agencies to conduct business in public session

  • Sunset laws – programs be reviewed and terminated if not effective

  • Privatization – government services replaced by private sector (e.g., prisons, schools, social security (?))

  • Incentives – maximizing efficiency and productivity for improved performance (e.g., Government Performance and Results Act (1997); “performance-based budgeting”)

  • Root of problem – decision-making process; public officials; challenges

  • e-government – improved efficiency and lowered costs

  • Helping whistle blowers – someone who blows the whistle on inefficiency or illegal action

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Bureaucrats as Politicians and Policymakers

  • Enabling legislation – Congressional statute creating an agency, purpose, composition, functions, and powers grants agency discretion in carrying out and interpreting laws

  • Rules, regulations published in Federal Register, with a 60-day wait before implementation

  • Negotiated rulemaking (1990) – allows those affected by new rule, regulation to participate in rule-drafting process

  • Iron triangles – three-way alliance between legislators, bureaucrats, and interest groups to preserve, make policies that benefit their respective interests

  • Issue networks – group of individuals or organizations (legislators, staff, interest groups, bureaucrats, media, scholars, etc.) that supports a particular policy position

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Congressional Control of the Bureaucracy

  • Power of the purse

    • Authorizing funds

    • Appropriating funds

  • Congressional investigations, hearings, and review (oversight)

    • General Accounting Office

    • Congressional Budget Office

  • Congressional Review Act (1996) – special procedure used to express Congressional disapproval of particular agencies actions

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Discussion questions

  • Which model of bureaucracy is most persuasive (Weberian, acquisitive, monopolistic)?

  • What can be done to increase the efficiency and accountability of the bureaucracy?

  • Is agency capture a problem?

  • What can be done to decrease the negative effects of iron triangles and issue networks?

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Hot Links to Selected Internet Resources:

  • Book’s Companion Site:

  • Wadsworth’s Companion Site:

  • First Gov:

  • The Federal Web Locator: