Bureaucracy and the Policy Process

POLS 330 – Spring 2006


I.  Introduction                                                                                                                                  

In order to adequately evaluate the American political environment, as a political scientist one must take on the challenge of understanding bureaucracy.  In this course we will examine a number of questions surrounding public bureaucracies, including:  What is the origin of the American bureaucratic system?  How has it progressed and evolved into its current form?  Has bureaucracy been corrupted by the advancement of “technical rationality” and, if so, should bureaucracy be considered inherently evil?  Why are bureaucrats reviled in some instances and revered in others?  How can or should unelected government officials be made more accountable to their elected counterparts and to the citizens they serve?  Do unelected government officials ‘make policy’ and, if so, what is the policy process?  Is it accurate, or even fair, to carve out public bureaucracy as the “fourth branch of government”? 


In addressing these and many other questions, we will rely on the blending of classic and contemporary public administration theory.  Also, we will discuss real-life cases in several areas of public policy, including homeland security, education, the environment, law enforcement, and social welfare.


II.  Contact and Meeting Information                                                                                                           


Trent J. Davis

Office: DuSable 476

Phone: (815) 753-1818

E-mail: tdavis2@niu.edu

Office Hours: MW 9:00 to 10:00am, or by appointment


Class meetings

MWF 10:00 to 10:50am, DuSable 246


III.  Required Course Materials                                                                                                                     

The following textbooks are required for this course:





IV.  Course Assignments and Grading Policy                                                                                                                                     

This section provides an outline of the assignments/exams required for this course and the point value each exercise will carry.  In addition, an overview of each assignment/exam has been provided below.




The following grading scale will be utilized:

and Assignments


360 - 400


UAE: Policy Research Paper


320 - 359


Midterm Exam


280 - 319


Cumulative Final Exam


240 - 279





Below 240



Attendance, Participation, and Assignments

Class attendance will be taken on a regular basis; each absence beyond two (2) will result in a 5-point grade deduction.  That being said, students are expected to attend all regularly scheduled class lectures and any special study sessions or exam review periods that may occur.  It is also expected that students will arrive to class on time and remain for the duration of the class period (unless prior arrangements have been made with the instructor).  Students are strongly encouraged to frequently participate in class discussion.  So that everyone is given an equal opportunity to participate, I will randomly call on students.  This, however, should not discourage you from volunteering your comments. 


Over the course of the semester, there will be two take home assignments.  These assignments will be graded on a pass or fail basis.  Responses must be typed and turned in during class on the day in which they are due (i.e., late assignments will not be accepted).  See the “weekly class schedule” for assignment and corresponding due dates.


Unmasking Administrative Evil (UAE): Policy Research Paper

Overview:  Over the course of the semester we will make extensive use of the Adams and Balfour text, Unmasking Administrative Evil.  Using this text, students will take part in examining the field of public administration and its relationship, if any, to the notion of evil.  In addition, readings critical of or counter to the aforementioned text will be explored.


Using Unmasking Administrative Evil (UAE) as a foundation, students will be required to develop a policy research paper that either supports or refutes the key themes found in the text.  Note: students are required to submit a short (i.e., approximately one paragraph) paper proposal outlining (1) the public policy or program to be addressed and (2) why you are interested in examining that particular issue
no later than
October 23.  The final paper is due in-class on (or before) December 1; late papers will not be accepted under any circumstances. 


Specific paper requirements are provided below; please see me as early as possible in the semester if you have additional questions.


Paper Requirements:

  1. Include a title page containing the title of your paper, your name, course number, and paper submission date.  A works cited page should be included at the conclusion of the paper.


  1. The first section should be a one to two page description of the key themes and ideas found in Unmasking Administrative Evil.  Do not attempt to address every theme or to summarize the entire book; rather, you should identify those themes that you feel are most important for clarifying the authors’ purpose.  Begin this section with the subhead: Identification of Key Themes.


  1. The second section should be a five to six page discussion (based on research, not personal opinion) of a specific public policy or program area (e.g., welfare, health care [medicare/caid], public housing, education [No Child Left Behind Act, Head Start Program], defense/military, and crime/punishment) that either supports or refutes the authors’ key themes.  For example, given recent events in this country, you may have developed an interest in immigration policy.  What evidence, if any, can you find to support the notion of administrative evil as it relates to this policy?  Likewise, are policies intended to address poverty, crime, terrorism, drug abuse, and so on bastions of administrative evil waiting to be uncovered?

    Do not simply repeat what you already discussed; rather, you need to examine your chosen policy area through outside evidence (i.e., scholarly articles, books, or current ‘real-life’ events).  Moreover, do not rely upon your personal opinion or first person accounts (i.e., do not state “I think…” or “I feel…” or “I believe…”).  Begin this section with the subhead: Policy Research
    A minimum of five outside sources, three of which must be from scholarly works, should be incorporated into this section.  All sources must be thoroughly documented in the works cited page.


  1. The paper must be typed, double-spaced, in 12-point Times or Times New Roman font, with 1” margins.  Also, be sure to use a style guide, such as MLA or APA, consistently throughout the paper.



As with all academic writing assignments, you should approach the policy research paper with the utmost seriousness.  In general, this means that you should not ‘put off’ or wait until the last minute to begin or complete any aspect of the assignment.  More specifically, considerable care should be taken in designing, researching, drafting, and editing your paper.  A poorly written paper (defined as any paper that does not meet the paper style or length requirements, does not contain proper or sufficient citations, contains more than three grammatical errors, or is otherwise deemed unsatisfactory) will receive a non-passing grade. 


Finally, it is strongly recommended that each student take his or her paper to the University’s Writing Center. While much of your grade will be based on the substance of your work, quality of grammar and style should by no means be overlooked.  Visiting the Writing Center is not mandatory; however, students who choose to take advantage of this resource (minimum 30-minute session) will receive an automatic 5-point increase on their policy research paper grade (staple proof of session to your paper).  The Writing Center is located in Stevenson Towers South, Lower Level.  For more information or to make an appointment call 753-6636.   


Midterm and Final Examinations

There will be a closed-book/note midterm and final examination.  Both exams will consist of any combination of multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions.  The specific format, however, will be announced in advance.  The midterm exam is scheduled for October 16 and the final exam is scheduled for December 11.  Make-up examinations will not be given.  The format for the final exam will differ from the midterm in that it will be cumulative in nature; however, material covered during the second half of the semester will be emphasized.


Extra Credit

Individual opportunities for extra credit are not available.  Similar to make-up exams, such assignments raise serious questions of equity.


V.  Undergraduate Writing Awards                                                                                      

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300 and 400 level political science courses or directed studies.  Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing; however, winners are expected to attend the Department’s spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00.  Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28.  All copies should have two cover pages – one with the student’s name and one without the student’s name.  Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award.  However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year’s competition even if the student has graduated.


VI.  Academic Integrity and Rules of Decorum                                                                                

Honesty is the essence of the intellectual life of the University.  Students who copy the work of another on an assignment, paper, quiz, or examination are guilty of cheating.  The misrepresentation of another's work as your own, copying material from books, magazines, or other resources without acknowledgement and identification of those sources is plagiarism.  If a student is guilty of either cheating or plagiarizing, or of assisting other students in cheating or plagiarizing on an assignment, paper, quiz, or examination, the student may receive a grade of “F” for the course and be suspended or dismissed from the University.  Please consult the University’s website, the Student Judicial Code, or speak to the course instructor if you have further questions concerning this policy.


In addition to the University’s Rules of Decorum, there are a few additional policies that each student should observe.


- Always demonstrate courtesy and respect toward all others in class.  This includes respecting the opinions of others and refraining from talking while they are speaking.


- Make every effort to come to class on time and be prepared.  Habitual tardiness will not be tolerated, as it is an unfair disruption to all others in the class. 


- If you must leave the class early, please let me know before class begins.  Leaving and then returning to class, unless for a valid and necessary reason, will not be tolerated.  


- Turn off all electronic devices (i.e., cell phones, pagers, PDAs) prior to entering class.  If you accidentally leave a phone on and it rings during class, do not answer it.  Hang up the phone.


- While the class is in progress do not read newspapers or books for another class.  Moreover, do not engage in side conversations with other students in the class.


- During an exam, there are to be no electronic devices, including but not limited to cell phones, pagers, and PDAs, left on or visible to you or I.  If for any reason you are caught with an electronic device during an exam, you will receive an automatic “F” on the exam and be turned in to the University for academic misconduct.


- During an exam, all backpacks, briefcases, purses, and etcetera are to be closed and stored under your seat.  If for any reason during the exam you must access one of these items, raise your hand and let me know prior to doing so. 


VII.  Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities                                                                      

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework, and for which they may require accommodations, should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


VIII.  Department of Political Science Website                                                                                 

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science website on a regular basis.  This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities.  To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.


IX.  Weekly Class Schedule                                                                                                                

Week 1:  Class Introduction and Perceptions of Bureaucracy

Monday, August 28

-Course Introduction

-Overview of the Blackboard Course Server

-Assignment I: Perceptions of Bureaucracy (Due September 6)


Wednesday, August 30

-Class canceled – professional travel


Friday, September 1

-Class canceled – professional travel


Week 2: Bureaucratic Myths and Realities 

Monday, September 4

-Class canceled – Labor Day


Wednesday, September 6

-Debunking common myths and realities about bureaucracy?

-Size of the American bureaucracy and the “shadow government”

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 1

-Assignment I due


Friday, September 8

-Bureaucratic myths and realities, continued

-Small group exercise – Interactions with bureaucracy


Week 3: Rise of the Administrative State

Monday, September 11

-Understanding the functions and tools of government

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 2


Wednesday, September 13

-Overview of the American Administrative State

-American Bureaucracy formally defined


Friday, September 15

-The American Administrative State, continued


Week 4: Politics-Administration Dichotomy

Monday, September 18

-What is the Politics-Administration Dichotomy?  Why does it matter?

-Read:  Wilson, W. (1887), “The Study of Administration” pgs. 197-222 [on-line] and
Goodnow, F. (1900), “Politics and Administration: A Study of government” pgs. 1-22 [on-line]
Svara, J. (1985), “Dichotomy and Duality:  Reconceptualizing the Relationship between Policy and Administration in Council-Manager Cities” pgs. 221-232 [on-line]


Wednesday, September 20

-Politics-Administration Dichotomy, continued


Friday, September 22

-The Revisionist Debate

-Read: Martin, D. (1988), “The Fading Legacy of Woodrow Wilson” pgs. 631-636 [on-line]

-Assignment II: Politics-Administration Dichotomy Q & A (Due September


Week 5: Traditional Administrative Theory

Monday, September 25

-Four aspects of traditional administrative theory: An overview

-Assignment II due


Wednesday, September 27

-Class canceled – professional travel


Friday, September 29

-Class canceled – professional travel


Week 6: The Policy Process

Monday, October 2

-Conclude discussion on traditional administrative theory


Wednesday, October 4

-Overview of the policy process


Friday, October 6

-Conclude discussion on the policy process


Week 7: Policy Typologies

Monday, October 9

-Regulatory, Redistributive, Distributive, and Constituent Policy

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 12


Wednesday, October 11

-Conclude discussion on policy typologies


Friday, October 13

-First half course wrap-up

-Midterm examination Q & A


Week 8: Midterm Examination and Bureaucratic Policymaking

Monday, October 16

-Midterm Examination


Wednesday, October 18

-Bureaucracy as a policymaking institute, a “fourth branch” of government?

- ‘Our model’ of bureaucratic policymaking


Friday, October 20

-Conclude discussion on bureaucratic policymaking


Week 9: Decision Making Models

Monday, October 23

-Overview of most prominent models of decision making

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 9 (first half)

-Last day to submit paper proposal


Wednesday, October 25

-Overview of most prominent models of decision making, continued

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 9 (second half)


Friday, October 27

-Conclude discussion on decision making

Week 10: Public Choice Theory

Monday, October 30

-Overview of public choice theory

-Review: Kettl and Fesler, pgs. 247-251


Wednesday, November 1

-Public choice theory, continued


Friday, November 3

-Small group exercise – Public choice case study


Week 11: Implementation and Evaluation

Monday, November 6

-Common factors affecting implementation

-Judging implementation success or failure

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 11


Wednesday, November 8

-Implementation and evaluation, continued


Friday, November 10

-Class canceled – Reading day


Week 12: Unmasking Administrative Evil

Monday, November 13

-Introduction to Unmasking Administrative Evil

-Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 1 and 2


Wednesday, November 15

-Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

-Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 3, 4, and 5


Friday, November 17

-Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

-The ethics of public administration

-Read: Adams and Balfour, chapters 6 and 7


Week 13: Unmasking Administrative Evil, continued

Monday, November 20

-Conclude discussion on Unmasking Administrative Evil


Wednesday, November 22

-Debating and critiquing Unmasking Administrative Evil

-Read: Dubnick, M. (2000), “The Case for Administrative Evil: A critique” pgs. 464-474 [on-line] and Vickers, M. (2000), “A New Concept” pgs. 474-478 [on-line] and
Locke, H. (2000)
, “Unmasking Administrative Evil: The book and its critics” [on-line].


Friday, November 24

-Class canceled – Thanksgiving Holiday


Week 14: Controlling the Bureaucracy

Monday, November 27

-Internal and external controls

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapter 13 and pgs. 394 – 406


Wednesday, November 29

-Internal and external controls, continued

-Is it possible to effectively control the bureaucracy?


Friday, December 1

-Conclude discussion on internal and external controls

-Research Paper Due


Week 15: Reforming the Bureaucracy: The Future

Monday, December 4

-Why is reform so difficult?  Is reform necessary?

-Read: Kettl and Fesler, chapters 4 and 6


Wednesday, December 6

-Looking at the future of the American bureaucracy


Friday, December 8

-Second half course wrap-up

-Final examination Q & A


FINAL EXAMINATION – Monday, December 11 from 10:00 to 11:50am.


Important Dates

-August 30 and September 1 – Class canceled, professional travel

-September 4 – Class canceled, Labor Day

-September 27 and 29 – Class canceled, professional travel

-October 16 – Midterm Examination

-October 23 – Last day to submit paper proposal

-November 10 – Class canceled, Reading day 

-November 24 – Class canceled, Thanksgiving Holiday

-December 1 – Policy Research Paper due

-December 11 – Final Examination


Please note:  The instructor reserves the right to change the course schedule/requirements as necessary.