Bureaucracy Summary

857 Words4 Pages
Caleb Roberts
POLS 660A
September 5, 2017
Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies do and why they do it by James Q. Wilson In his book, Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies do and why they do it, James Q. Wilson’s main objective is to better define the behavior of governmental bureaucracy, believing traditional organizational and economic theory does not adequately explain their actions. Wilson believes that government agencies are doomed to be perceived as inefficient entities by the public. He gives examples of commonly held perceptions of bureaucracies and reveals how these are mostly misconceptions. He points to the environment of bureaucracy, where rules and procedures, dictate goals, along with context, constraints, values, and norms. Wilson uses a unique approach of breaking down bureaucracy into six parts: Organization, Operations, Managers, Executives, Context, and Change.
The organization is basically what it states, an organization is important for an agency, and it matters.
Operations look at behavior, for example, street-level bureaucrats, and how their culture is determined by the situations they encounter daily.
Managers of public agencies have complex issues to deal with, that is made more challenging due to a variety of constraints.
Executives of government agencies are in competition with other departments, and use specific strategies in the process of competing, for “turf”.
The context of public agencies business includes presidents, courts, and congress.
Change is needed, and Wilson summarizes the problems of government agencies and offers alternative market solutions and propositions. Wilson does an excellent job to dispel the public's perception of bureaucracy as a largely impersonal, poorly managed entity that employs unqualified staff who are buried in red tape. He explains, that to better understand why bureaucracies do what they do, you must recognize that public government agencies do not have the same goals as private independent businesses. The two operate with different sets of rules, goals, incentives, and constraints. In short, private companies are goal oriented, where bureaucracies are driven by constraints. Wilson demonstrates this by using Government
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