Political Science 540, American National Institutions, Spring 2000

Prof. Frank Baumgartner


Questions and discussion topics for week 9, March 14:


Readings: Wildavsky, three articles on the bureaucracy


Choose one of these topics for a five page paper if you choose to do one this week. In any case, come to class prepared to discuss the following:


1.      Wildavsky and Caiden cover a lot of ground. Most important intellectually is the concept of incrementalism and other “aids to decision.” Review the problems of comprehensive rationality in budgetary decision-making.

2.      Would the characteristics of federal budgeting, which seem so complicated, be applicable to smaller organizations, such as Penn State University?

3.      Review the changes in the federal budgeting process, comparing the current process to that from before the budget reforms of the 1970s.

4.      Jones, Baumgartner, and True show patterns of increasing incrementalism over the decades since WW2. What could explain that trend? Does that confirm or disconfirm Wildavsky’s original ideas?

5.      Discuss the concept of a fire-alarm in bureaucratic oversight? Is congressional oversight of executive agency activity conducive to good government? Do McCubbins and Schwartz have a good perspective on it? What do you think of their research—that is, their evidence?

6.      Bender and Moe use a very restricted model of bureaucratic behavior. Does their model capture the essentials of bureaucratic politics, or is it misleading? How far can they go with this model?