Patronage or Merit? Bureaucratic Recruitment in 19th and Early 20th Century Europe
38 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2010 Last revised: 2 Sep 2010
Date Written: 2010
The means by which governments select bureaucratic officials are likely to be closely associated with the performance of state bureaucracies. Merit-based recruitment may yield more productive officials than other methods of selection. Yet the choice of appointment mechanism has been subjected to scant theoretical scrutiny in comparative politics. The bulk of the literature on bureaucratic recruitment draws upon the US experience and thus may not be generalizable to other institutional settings. In this paper, I examine the choice between patronage and merit appointments with a very simple, general, theoretical framework. Patronage, I argue, is characterized by skilled and unskilled candidates bidding for offices by offering political services in exchange for posts. It is costly insofar as it may exclude qualified candidates from office if these candidates lack the means to secure a post. Patronage is, therefore, less likely to be adopted when excluded candidates are highly skilled.
Keywords: Patronage, Bureaucracy, Civil Service
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