Please choose one of the following questions and react to it briefly in the discussion boards.
When you submit answer, please begin by pasting the question you are responding to in the text field. Then write your answer below.
Discussion question options in the first filePlease choose one of the following questions and react to it briefly in the discussion boards.
When you submit answer, please begin by pasting the question you are responding to in the text field. Then write your answer below.
Discussion question options:
 
One of the goals of the Trump Administration has been to reduce the size of the Federal Bureaucracy and the Federal Workforce.  The Administration has imposed hiring freezes and has often elected to not replace civil servants who have retired or left for the private sector.  In your view is this a good approach to managing government?  Why or why not?  What are the benefits of reducing the size of the federal workforce? What are the potential drawbacks of having fewer (and less expert) civil servants in office?  Does the benefit outweigh the costs? [You may wish to think about the 5th Risk reading or the Covid crisis].
 
According to Michael Lewis’s The 5th Risk, bureaucracies are staffed by experts whose mission is to manage long term policy programs and prevent unlikely but serious policy problems. The politicians who control the bureaucracy (Presidents and Congress) are elected, and have short term incentives to win re-election.  What challenges does this create for the funding and maintenance of programs meant to prevent crises?  In your view, what reforms or educational initiatives (if any) would you recommend to help elected officials and the public understand the need for expert bureaucrats?
 
According to this recent Pew Research poll, (Links to an external site.) American show high levels of cynicism about government, and display low levels of trust in the federal government.  However, when asked about specific programs Americans often show much more positive opinions of the performance of the federal government (Links to an external site.).  Why do you believe is this the case?  Do you believe this is a problem for American democracy?  Why or why not?Week 7 Readings: The Bureaucracy
The following readings are assigned for this week.  Please be sure to read the entire chapter.  The link takes you to the introduction.Error! Filename not specified.

 
· American Government, Chapter 15: The Bureaucracy  (Links to an external site.)

· McCrain, Josh. 2017. “What does Donald Trump need for a successful presidency? Bureaucrats.
” The Washington Post’s The Monkey Cage.

· Lewis, Michael. 2017. “The 5th Risk (Links to an external site.).”  Vanity Fair.

Week 7 Lectures: The Bureaucracy
Week 7 Videos:
The Bureaucracy Part One

The Bureaucracy Part Two

Principal Agent Dilemmas Part One

Principal Agent Dilemmas Part Two

Congressional and Executive Control of the Bureaucracy.

Supplementary and Optional Videos on why the Postal Service is in the News.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The USPSCongressionalandExecutiveControlLectureNotes.pdf

1

Principal Agent Problems

Congress, the Executive Branch, and
Control of the Bureaucracy.

Key Questions

n Why do the Legislative and Executive branches of
government choose to delegate to bureaucracy? How do
they ensure that bureaucracy is actually doing what is
intended in legislation?

n What do principal agent dilemmas teach us about
government behavior and the relationship of executive
agencies to government?

Principal Agency in
Government: the typical tradeoff.
n Congress must delegate to bureaucracies to

see that laws are implemented.
q They also gain from efficiency if they can delegate

policy authority to bureaucracy
q Vary with how much independence agencies are

given
n Discretion: High bureaucratic discretion requires less

oversight, but can lead to rogue behavior
n Control: Strict oversight and rule making can control

rogue behavior, but is costly.

2

Principal agent dilemmas
and control of government
n Congress faces a principal agent dilemma

in writing laws.
n The would benefit from delegating

lawmaking discretion to expert bureaucrats.
n Lets Congress save time, energy and

resources by writing ambiguous laws
outlining broad goals of policy.

n Rely on bureaucrats to fill in the detail
through rulemaking.

Principal agent dilemmas
and control of government
n Congress worries that if they hand off

discretion to bureaucrats the law will be
subverted.

n Bureaucrats might undermine Congress by
shifting policy towards the president’s
preferences.

n Risk of subversion is highest when Congress
and the president are from different parties–
and disagree over policy.

Principal agent dilemmas
and control of government
n Congress is strategic in writing laws.
n When government is unified and risk that

bureaucrats have preferences different than
their own, they save time and energy by
delegating to bureaucracy.

n When government is divided Congress
writes more precise and carefully proscribed
laws– limiting the ability of bureaucrats to
shift policy through rulemaking.

3

Competing Principles
in American Politics
n Bureaucracies have many bosses

q The Executive Branch
n Staffs and directs implementation of agencies

n Congress
q Writes legislation, controls oversight

n Courts
q Rule on legality of executive agency behavior

n The American People
q Consumers of agency products, targets of agency

regulations

Complexity in Government
Principal Agent Relationships

n Multiple and Competing Principals
q Can reduce or increase information asymmetry
q Can lead to uncertain Principal Agent Relationship.

n Goal Incongruence exacerbated.
q Politicians are elected officials with short term goals,

whereas bureaucrats are career oriented.
n Public versus Private Interests

q Iron Triangles: Strong Relationships can emerge between
Congressional Subcommittee, Bureaucratic Agency, and
Special Interest groups.

q Lead to Agency Capture.

Tobacco P




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