Bureaucrats, Politics And the Environment

Bureaucrats, Politics And the Environment

Richard W. Waterman
Amelia A. Rouse
Robert L. Wright
With a contribution by Kenneth J. Meier
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Bureaucrats, Politics And the Environment
    Book Description:

    The bureaucracy in the United States has a hand in almost all aspects of our lives, from the water we drink to the parts in our cars. For a force so influential and pervasive, however, this body of all nonelective government officials remains an enigmatic, impersonal entity.The literature of bureaucratic theory is rife with contradictions and mysteries.Bureaucrats, Politics, and the Environmentattempts to clarify some of these problems.The authors surveyed the workers at two agencies: enforcement personnel from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and employees of the New Mexico Environment Department. By examining what they think about politics, the environment, their budgets, and the other institutions and agencies with which they interact, this work puts a face on the bureaucracy and provides an explanation for its actions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7251-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. 1 Bureaucracy: Perceptions and Misperceptions
    (pp. 1-18)

    This is a book about bureaucratic theory. There are many theories of bureaucratic polities and yet few areas of agreement among them. For example, Woodrow Wilson (1987, 18) wrote, “administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics.” While most scholars now agree that there is politics in administration (even Wilson concedes this point), the “polities-administration dichotomy” continues to be reflected in the debate over whether bureaucrats should be “responsive” to elected officials or “neutral competent” (see Moe 1985b; Heclo 1975). We also learn from the literature that the growth of bureaucratie power has created a “bureaucratic problem” (Wilson 1967), and...

  7. 2 Principal-Agent Models: A Theoretical Cul-de-Sac
    (pp. 19-42)
    Richard W. Waterman and Kenneth J. Meier

    Theory is at the heart of the debate over the nature of bureaucratic politics. A primary target of this debate is the principal-agent model of political control of the bureaucracy. While principal-agent models originally derived from law and economics, they have become the basis for an extensive set of studies relating bureaucracy to elected officials (e.g., Mitnick 1980; Moe 1982, 1985a; Scholz and Wei 1986; Wood 1988, 1990; Wood and Waterman 1991, 1994). Such models also have been extended to presidents’ decisions to use force (Downs and Rocke 1994) and the Supreme Court and its relationship to lower courts (Songer,...

  8. 3 The Nature of Bureaucratic Politics
    (pp. 43-64)

    Along with the principal-agent model, William Niskanen’s (1971) model of the budget-maximizing bureaucrat is one of the most prominent theories of bureaucratic politics. It is similar to the principal-agent model in that it focuses on an “agency problem,” or the idea that “the incentives of bureaucrats do not lead to behavior that is fully consistent with the interests of politicians” (Niskanen 1991, 15). Niskanen’s theory posits that bureaucrats strive to maximize budgets. Thus, the behavior of bureaucrats can best be understood by assuming that the bureaucrat “is a ‘chooser’ and a ‘maximizer’ and, in contrast to his part in the...

  9. 4 An Examination of the Assumptions of the Principal-Agent Model
    (pp. 65-92)

    Past research has examined the possibility that the politics of federal regulatory agencies, such as the EPA, and state regulatory agencies, such as the NMED, should conform to the assumptions of the principal-agent model (see Moe 1982, 1985a; Scholz and Wei 1986; Brudney and Hebert 1987; Wood 1988; Hedge, Scicchitano, and Metz 1991; Hedge and Scicchitano 1994; Wood and Waterman 1991, 1993, 1994; Waterman and Wood 1993). In chapter 2, we also argued that federal regulatory bodies are the most likely agencies to conform to the assumptions of the principal-agent model. Given these assumptions, we expect to find evidence of...

  10. 5 A Multiple Principal Model of Bureaucratic Politics
    (pp. 93-111)

    Principal-agent studies have greatly expanded and enriched our understanding of bureaucratic politics. Yet, like other scholarly models of the bureaucratic process, this theory has its limitations. As argued in chapter 2, many scholars, though not all, have examined principal-agent relationships in a dyadic fashion; one principal and one agent are considered at a time. Yet is this a reasonable way of modeling bureaucratic politics? On this point Moe (1987, 482) writes:

    The simple principal-agent model focuses for convenience on one principal and one agent, highlighting the determinants of control in dyadic relationships. But the extent to which Congress controls a...

  11. 6 Bureaucrals’ Knowledge of Their Budgets
    (pp. 112-125)

    Thus far we have concentrated on an analysis of the principal-agent model and the implications of adding multiple principals to it. As we noted in chapter 3, however, another major bureaucratic theory is William Niskanen’s idea that bureaucrats are budget-maximizers. Niskanen (1971) argues that bureaucrats strive to maximize budgets rather than achieve policy goals or pursue other incentives. For this reason, we are interested in how much knowledge bureaucrats have about their own agency’s budget. Since Niskanen’s thesis focuses on the idea that agency personnel are interested in developing “slack resources”—an inefficient resource base above what they actually need...

  12. 7 The Myths of the Bureaucracy
    (pp. 126-138)

    At present the principal-agent model is the dominant theory of political control of the bureaucracy. The theory posits that there is inherent goal conflict between principals and their agents, and that agents possess and benefit from an information asymmetry over their principals. In this book we have used interviews with federal-and state-level environmental personnel to shed some empirical light on the model’s two basic assumptions. After presenting a critique of the model in chapter 2, we provided evidence supporting the model’s assumptions in chapter 4. The data derived from our surveys on the educational training of environmental personnel demonstrated that...

  13. APPENDIX A Brief Hislory of Waler Pollulion Legislalion
    (pp. 139-142)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 143-146)
    (pp. 147-160)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 161-167)