In order to understand government, you need to understand bureaucracy. Because as Professor Michael Munger explains, bureaucracy IS government; there’s no other way for government to work. Unlike the private sector, the effectiveness of bureaucracies can’t be judged based on profits, and people can’t take their business elsewhere if they’re unhappy with performance. Public choice offers insights about the limits of bureaucracy and government.

Additional Readings and Videos

Here are recommended readings and additional videos that could be added to a syllabus or lesson plan on this topic.

Books and Articles

Higgs, R. (1987). Crisis and Leviathan. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Klick, J., & Mitchell, G. (2006). Government regulation of irrationality: Moral and cognitive hazards. Minnesota Law Review,90, 1620–1630.

Ott, J. C. (2010). Good governance and happiness in nations: Technical quality precedes democracy and quality beats size. Journal of Happiness Studies,11, 353–368.

Viscusi, W. K., & Gayer, T. (2015). Behavioral public choice: The behavioral paradox of government policy. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,38(3), 973–1007.

Multiple authors, Cato Unbound, “Questioning the Administrative State”

Mises, Ludwig. Bureaucracy. https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/mises-bureaucracy

Niskanen, William. 1971. Bureaucracy and Representative Government. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton. https://books.google.com/books/about/Bureaucracy_and_Representative_Governmen.html?id=FphJmwEACAAJ

McCubbins, Mathew, and Thomas Schwartz. 1984, “Congressional Oversight Overlooked: Police Patrols versus Fire Alarms.” American Journal of Political Science, 28(1): 165-179. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2110792

Litan, Robert. “Regulation.” Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Regulation.html 

Munger, Michael. 2005. “The Thing Itself.” EconLib. https://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2005/Mungerthing.html