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date: 27 July 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines James Q. Wilson’s Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why they Do it, and compares Wilson’s approach to that of neoclassical economics, paying particular attention to his denunciation of William Niskanen’s “bureaucratic imperialism” hypothesis and his rejection of “principal-agent” models which predict widespread “shirking” by bureaucrats. It discusses his argument that every bureaucracy has a distinctive culture that helps shape the behavior of individual bureaucrats. The chapter explores Wilson’s other views with regards to “capture theory,” accountability, and the ability of markets to promote efficiency and of governments to promote equity. Finally, it evaluates Wilson’s impact on other scholars, emphasizing: his bottom–up approach to studying bureaucracy, organizational culture, his typologies of policy proposals that differ in terms of benefits and costs, and of administrative agencies that differ in terms of outputs and outcomes.

Keywords: James Q. Wilson, bureaucratic politics, bureaucratic imperialism, bureaucrats, organizational culture, bureaucracy, capture theory, accountability, markets, administrative agencies

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