Above Politics: Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment

My new book, written with Gary J. Miller and published by Cambridge University Press, is now available via Amazon. A summary:

Economic development requires secure contract enforcement and stable property rights. Normal majority-rule politics, such as bargaining over distributive and monetary policies, generate instability and frequently undermine economic development. Above Politics argues that bureaucracies can contribute to stability and economic development, but only if they are insulated from unstable politics. A separation-of-powers stalemate creates the conditions for bureaucratic autonomy. But what keeps delegated bureaucrats from being more abusive as they become more autonomous? One answer is the negotiation of long-term, cooperative relationships – that (when successful) typically bind subordinates to provide more effort in exchange for autonomy. Even more compelling is professionalism, which embeds its professional practitioners in professional norms and culture, and incidentally mitigates corruption. Financial examples are provided throughout the book, which ends with an analysis of the role played by professionalized bureaucracies during the Great Recession.

And we’re grateful for endorsements from Jack Knott, Dan Carpenter, and Chuck Shipan:

“The significant new book, Above Politics, by Miller and Whitford, combines eloquent political theory with engaging examples and sophisticated analysis. In the tradition of the Federalist Papers, it provides a persuasive argument about the most important institutional design issues facing democracy today.”
Jack H. Knott, University of Southern California

“We want our government agencies to be politically accountable. Yet we also want them to have autonomy, so they can utilize their professional expertise to make good decisions. In their lucid, engaging analysis, Miller and Whitford show how the incentives of both politicians and bureaucrats affect the balance between accountability and autonomy. It is a splendid scholarly achievement.”
Charles Shipan, University of Michigan

“More thoroughly than anyone before them, Miller and Whitford teach us that politicians cannot commit to keep their hands off of agencies even when to do so would benefit all of us. A rigorous defense of agency independence and professionalized administration.”
Dan Carpenter, Harvard University