Bureaucracy: The Fourth Branch of Government

  • Nigel Bowles
Part of the Comparative Government and Politics book series (CGP)


The United States Constitution provides for three branches of government. This chapter examines an unmentioned fourth: the Executive Branch’s bureaucracy.


Civil Service Internal Revenue Service Executive Agency Federal Deposit Insurance Corpus Interstate Commerce Commission 
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Further Reading

  1. Crenson and Rourke’s essay “By Way of Conclusion: American Bureaucracy since World War II”, in Galambos’s edited collection The New American State, provides a brief introduction to the subject. Fuller accounts may be found in Rourke’s own Bureaucracy, Politics, and Public Policy (3rd edn) and “Bureaucracy in the American Constitutional Order”, Political Science Quarterly, vol. 102, no. 2 (1987), in Johnson and Libecap’s The Federal Civil Service System and the Problem of Bureaucracy, and in Woll’s American Bureaucracy. Seidman and Gilmour’s Politics, Position, and Power (4th edn) is a politically sensitive interpretation of the fourth branch. Dodd and Schott’s Congress and the Administrative State is admirable, though now rather dated. The delegation of Congressional powers to agencies is further examined in McCubbins and Page’s essay “A Theory of Congressional Delegation”, in McCubbins and Sullivan’s edited collection, Congress: Structure and Policy; the other half of that problem, Congressional oversight of agencies’ operation through the appropriations and authorization processes, is well treated in Aberbach’s Keeping a Watchful Eye (1990). Distributive politics has received considerable attention: Arnold’s Congress and the Bureaucracy: A Theory of Influence is excellent, while Rich’s “Distributive Politics and the Allocation of Federal Grants”, American Political Science Review, vol. 83 no. 1 (1989), and Hird’s “The Political Economy of Pork: Project Selection at the US Army Corp of Engineers”, American Political Science Review, vol. 85, no. 2 (1991) are excellent pieces of research. Moe considers the persistent problem for Presidents of how they might exercise influence over bureaucrats only nominally subordinate to them in his essay “The Politicized Presidency”, in Chubb and Peterson’s New Directions in American Politics; Wood and Waterman’s article on the same subject “The Dynamics of Political Control of the Bureaucracy”, American Political Science Review, vol. 85, no. 3 (1991) repays reading.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nigel Bowles 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nigel Bowles
    • 1
  1. 1.CharlburyUK

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