Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1989

Keywords

policy making, elected representatives, American politics

Abstract

A major issue in the study of American politics is the extent to which electoral discipline also constrains bureaucrats. In practice, executive agencies operate with considerable independence from elected officials. However,the entire process of policy execution is a game among legislators.the chief executive. and bureaucratic agents. It includes the initial delegation of authority, the choice of policy alternatives,and opportunities for oversight and control. A simple model of this process demonstrates an important distinction between bureaucratic authority and bureaucratic discretion. Indeed.in its simplest form, the model predicts a world in which bureaucrats are the sole active participants in policymaking, but in which the choice of policy is traceable entirely to the preferences of elected officials. More realistically. the model leads to a precise definition of agency discretion. These conclusions have practical applications for both students and reformers of policymaking.