Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-p2v8j Total loading time: 0.001 Render date: 2024-05-20T20:33:45.725Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The Dynamics of Political Control of the Bureaucracy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2014

B. Dan Wood
Texas A&M University
Richard W. Waterman
University of New Mexico


A new paradigm of political-bureaucratic relations emerged through the 1980s holding that U.S. democratic institutions continuously shape nonelective public bureaucracies. Several empirical studies support the paradigm with evidence suggestive of political manipulation but none reveals the scope or specific mechanisms of political control. We explore the dynamics of political control of the bureaucracy explicitly to determine the scope and mechanisms. We examine output time series from seven different public bureaucracies for responsiveness to political tools applied in the late Carter and early Reagan administrations. We find responsiveness in all seven cases. The evidence also shows that political appointments—a shared power of the president and Congress—is the most important instrument of political control; changing budgets, legislation, congressional signals, and administrative reorganizations are less important. These findings confirm intuitive assertions by institutional scholars and suggest a method of “policy monitoring” that could enhance future democratic control of the bureaucracy.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 1991

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Akaike, H. 1974. “A New Look at Statistical Model Identification.IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control. AC-19:716–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bendor, Jonathan, Taylor, Serge, and Gaaien, Roland Van. 1987. “Stacking the Deck: Bureaucratic Missions and Policy Design.American Political Science Review 81:873–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bibby, John F., and Davidson, Roger H.. 1972. On Capitol Hill. Hinsdale, Il: Dryden.Google Scholar
Box, George E. P., and Jenkins, Gwilym M.. 1976. Time Series Analysis, Forecasting, and Control. San Francisco: Holden-Day.Google Scholar
Box, George E. P., and Tiao, George C.. 1975. “Intervention Analysis with Applications to Economic and Environmental Problems.Journal of the American Statistical Association 70:7079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bryner, Gary C. 1987. Bureaucratic Discretion: Law and Policy in Federal Regulatory Agencies. New York: Pergamon.Google Scholar
Business Week. 1982. “The Conservative at the EEOC.” 9 08.Google Scholar
Calvert, Randall, McCubbins, Mathew D., and Weingast, Barry R.. 1989. “A Theory of Political Control and Agency Discretion.American Journal of Political Science 33:588611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Calvert, Randall, Moran, Mark J., and Weingast, Barry R.. 1986. “Congressional Influence over Policymaking: The Case the FTC.” In Congress: Structure and Policy, ed. McCubbins, Mathew D. and Sullivan, Terry. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Campbell, Donald T., and Stanley, Julian C.. 1973. Experimental and Quasi-experimental Designs for Research. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
Cater, Douglass. 1964. Power in Washington. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Chubb, John E. 1985. “The Political Economy of Federalism.American Political Science Review 79:9941015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cook, Brian, and Wood, B. Dan. 1989. “Principal-Agent Models of Political Control of the Bureaucracy.American Political Science Review 83:965–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cook, Thomas D., and Campbell, Donald T.. 1979. Quasi-experimentation: Design and Analysis Issues for Field Settings. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
Cronin, Thomas E. 1980. The State of the Presidency. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Culhane, Paul J. 1984. “Sagebrush Rebels in Office: Jim Watt's Land and Water Politics.” In Environmental Policy in the 1980s: Reagan's New Agenda, ed. Vig, Norman J. and Kraft, Michael E.. Washington: Congressional Quarterly.Google Scholar
Derthick, Martha. 1987. “American Federalism: Madison's Middle Ground in the 1980s.Public Administration Review 47:6674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dodd, Lawrence, and Schott, Richard. 1979. Congress and the Administrative State. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
Eisner, Marc Allen, and Meier, Kenneth J.. 1990. “Presidential Control Versus Bureaucratic Power: Explaining the Reagan Revolution in Antitrust.American Journal of Political Science 34:269–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fenno, Richard F. Jr. 1959. The President's Cabinet. New York: Vintage Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fenno, Richard F. Jr. 1966. The Power of the Purse: Appropriations Politics in Congress. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Ferejohn, John A., and Shipan, Charles R.. 1989. “Congressional Influence on Administrative Agencies: A Case Study of Telecommunications Policy.” In Congress Reconsidered, ed. Dodd, Lawrence C. and Oppenheimer, Bruce I.. Washington: Congressional Quarterly.Google Scholar
Fiorina, Morris. 1981. “Congressional Control of the Bureaucracy: A Mismatch of Incentives and Capabilities.” In Congress Reconsidered, ed. Dodd, Lawrence and Oppenheimer, Bruce. Washington: Congressional Quarterly.Google Scholar
Freeman, J. Leiper. 1965. The Political Process: Executive Bureau-Legislative Committee Relations. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
Fuchs, Edward Paul. 1988. Presidents, Management, and Regulation. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
Goodman, Marshall, and Wrightson, Margaret. 1987. Managing Regulatory Reform. Praeger.Google Scholar
Gottron, Martha V. 1982. Regulation: Process and Politics. Washington: Congressional Quarterly.Google Scholar
Greer, Douglas F. 1983. Business, Government, and Regulation. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Harris, Richard A., and Milkis, Sidney M.. 1989. The Politics of Regulatory Change: A Tale of Two Agencies. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Katzman, Robert A. 1980a. “The Federal Trade Commission.” In The Politics of Regulation, ed. Wilson, James Q.. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Katzman, Robert A. 1980b. Regulatory Bureaucracy: The Federal Trade Commission and Antitrust Policy. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
Koenig, Louis W. 1975. The Chief Executive. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.Google Scholar
McCleary, Richard, and Hay, Richard A.. 1980. Applied Time Series Analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
McConnell, Grant. 1966. Private Power and American Democracy. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
McCubbins, Mathew D. 1985. “The Legislative Design of Regulatory Structure.American Journal of Political Science 29:721–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McCubbins, Mathew D., and Schwartz, Thomas. 1984. “Congressional Oversight Overlooked: Police Patrols Versus Fire Alarms.American Journal of Political Science 28:165–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Meier, Kenneth J. 1985. Regulation: Politics, Bureaucracy, and Economics. New York: St. Martins.Google Scholar
Melnick, R. Shep. 1983. Regulation and the Courts. Washington: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
Moe, Terry M. 1982. “Regulatory Performance and Presidential Administration.American Journal of Political Science 26:197224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moe, Terry M. 1984. “The New Economics of Organization.American Journal of Political Science 28:739–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moe, Terry M. 1985. “Control and Feedback in Economic Regulation: The Case of the NLRB.American Political Science Review 79:10941116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nathan, Richard P. 1983. The Administrative Presidency. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
The Nation. 1982. “Breaking Rights.” 8 05.Google Scholar
Noll, Roger G. 1971. Reforming Regulation. Washington: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
Ogul, Morris. 1976. Congress Oversees the Bureaucracy. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
Pasztor, Andy. 1984. “Interior Prepares To Crack Down on States with Deficient Strip Mining Programs.” Wall Street Journal, 14 02.Google Scholar
Quirk, Paul J. 1980. “Food and Drug Administration.” In The Politics of Regulation, ed. Wilson, James Q.. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
Reagan, Michael. 1987. Regulation: The Politics of Policy. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Rossiter, Clinton. 1956. The American Presidency. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.Google Scholar
Rourke, Francis E. 1989. “Executive Responsiveness to Presidential Policies: The Reagan Presidency.” Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Atlanta.Google Scholar
Sawa, Takamitsu. 1978. “Information Criteria for Discriminating among Alternative Regression Models.Econometrica. 46:1273–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scher, Seymour. 1960. “Congressional Committee Members As Independent Agency Overseers: A Case Study.American Political Science Review 54:911–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scholz, John, Twombly, John, and Headrick, Barbara. 1988. “Home Style Political Controls over Federal Bureaucracy: OSHA Enforcement at the County Level.” Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington.Google Scholar
Scholz, John, and Wei, Feng-heng. 1986. “Regulatory Enforcement in a Federalist System.American Political Science Review 80:1249–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Scicchitano, Michael J., and Hedge, David M.. 1989. “Federal Oversight and the States: The Surface Mining Case.” Presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
Shover, Neal, Clelland, Donald A., and Lynxwiler, John. 1986. Enforcement or Negotiation: Constructing a Regulatory Bureaucracy. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
Stewart, Joseph Jr., and Cromartie, Jane S.. 1982. “Partisan/Presidential Change and Regulatory Policy: The Case of the FTC and Deceptive Practices Cases, 1938–74.Presidential Studies Quarterly 12:568–73.Google Scholar
Stone, Alan. 1977. Economic Regulation and the Public Interest: The Federal Trade Commission in Theory and Practice. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Sundquist, James. 1981. The Decline and Resurgence of Congress. Washington: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 1984. “19th Annual Report of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.Washington: USGPO.Google Scholar
U.S. House. 1979. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment on H.R. 2608. 96th Cong., 1st sess.Google Scholar
U.S. House. 1981. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Post Office and Civil Service. 97th Cong., 1st sess.Google Scholar
U.S. House. 1982. Oversight Hearings before the Committee on Energy and the Environment of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. 97th Cong., 2nd sess.Google Scholar
Vig, Norman J., and Kraft, Michael E.. 1984. Environmental Policy in the 1980s: Reagan's New Agenda. Washington: Congressional Quarterly.Google Scholar
Waterman, Richard W. 1989. Presidential Influence and the Administrative State. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.Google Scholar
Weingast, Barry R., and Moran, Mark J.. 1983. “Bureaucratic Discretion or Congressional Control? Regulatory Policymaking by the Federal Trade Commission.Journal of Political Economy 91:765800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wildavsky, Aaron. 1964. The Politics of the Budgetary Process. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
Wood, B. Dan. 1991a. “Modeling Federal Implementation As a System.” American Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
Wood, B. Dan. 1991b. “Federalism and Policy Responsiveness: The Clean Air Case.” Journal of Politics. Forthcoming.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wood, B. Dan. 1990. “Does Politics Make a Difference at the EEOC?American Journal of Political Science 34:503–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wood, B. Dan. 1988. “Principals, Bureaucrats, and Responsiveness in Clean Air Enforcements.American Political Science Review 82:213–34.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wood, B. Dan, and Waterman, Richard W.. 1990. “Bureaucratic Adaptation and the Hysteresis Effect: The Case of EPA Enforcements.” Presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco.Google Scholar