Evaluating the Quality of Representation in the Bureaucracy
24 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
Over the past two decades, the representative bureaucracy literature has largely neglected to take up the normative questions that once constituted the core of this literature. In this essay, I return to the normative focus of early representative bureaucracy scholars. Given that the literature’s empirical studies have now established that descriptive representation can (and in many cases does) translate into substantive benefits for those being represented, I ask how one can evaluate the quality of representation in a bureaucracy. I argue that we should be concerned not only about who is selected to serve in the bureaucracy but also how bureaucrats’ (potentially heterogeneous) preferences are translated into policy. I argue that it is normatively appealing to have a bureaucratic system that makes political decisions collectively, allowing bureaucrats with a multiplicity of perspectives to weigh in on each decision. I also consider the need for representative considerations to be balanced with other important priorities (such as efficiency) in our bureaucracies. Finally, I offer suggestions regarding how my normative arguments might inform both practices within bureaucracies and future research.
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