Balancing the Importance of Accountability in Bureaucracy and Democracy

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Bureaucracy & Democracy: Accountability Dynamics

It seems that there are always two different sides in government. In this particular case, I am referring to the relationship between Bureaucracy and Democracy. In the perfect world that we’d hope to live in today, we strive to vote for the best candidate, and that they will follow through with everything that they have promised us during their campaign. That is the beauty of Democracy we have the ability to vote and hold those that we vote in accountable due to the promises that they made. However, in a bureaucratic world, things can be different. There are those state officials that are not voted by the people, which can be tricky.

Do these people get held to the same standard as those we voted in? Do we have the same level of trust and accountability for these individuals? Who keeps these individuals accountable? Is it the public, agency officials, or their bosses? Authors Balla and Gormley used their book Bureaucracy and Democracy; Accountability and Performance as a way to focus on how to view public bureaucracy as problematic but also redeemable. Due to being an open system, bureaucracy must be goal-oriented, and it can only function how it is supposed to when given direct goals, adequate resources, and the autonomy to apply to a problem.

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Whether we choose to understand it or not, bureaucracy is important in many ways. Unelected state officials play a huge role in public policies that affect our everyday lives. Ball and Gormley show this level of this importance by taking an approach that focuses on bureaucratic accountability and performance. There has to be a clear way of showing how we keep the bureaucratic world accountable and how we keep their performance accountable. A way that Ball and Gormley chose to show this is by giving us four scientific theories; bounded rationality, principal-agent theory, interest group mobilization, and network theory.

Each one of these theories helps us view bureaucracy through the scope of ideology. We have those instances in government where things must be done in a quick, accurate, and well-played way. This is where bounded rationality comes from. Delegating work from politicians to bureaucrats has to be challenging. The principal-agent theory really helps bring to light the difficulties of the two. Interest group mobilization brings our attention to those groups in society that play a huge role in influencing the outcomes of different policies. Last but not least network theory. The importance of those relationships that are inside as well as outside of the government has a huge role in the way a bureaucracy is run.

Impacts on Work, Life, and Governance

I agree that there has to be a way that brings all of these ideas together to make something that is easily understandable. Balla and Gormley’s book does just that. We are shown examples of public policy and the changes that occurred in bureaucrats and how they operated. More specifically, this is shown in the examples of the Obama and Trump administrations. There are also many public policy examples that are shown in the form of health care, transportation, education, protection of the environment, and other examples that gather huge attention from the media.

Each chapter of the book is started off with questions that require our thoughts to be focused on different particular aspects of bureaucracy. I like how the authors chose to get us thinking by giving us questions that help bring the information in each chapter together. The end of each chapter is concluded with key terms that were important throughout that specific chapter.

When I compare this book and all that I have learned to my own life, I think about the challenges that I can be faced in my own workplace. Every day, I am challenged to think outside of the box. Social issues, racial issues, and even the environment are all day-to-day challenges that I am faced with. Being in an environment where I am surrounded by people who are obtaining the same goals as me, challenging my mind on a different level, and giving me the opportunity to think outside the box is the beauty of bureaucracies.

All in all, the book Bureaucracy and Democracy; Accountability and Performance is a way of bringing different ideas regarding how bureaucracy and Democracy are intertwined and how they can work together. We are constantly benefiting from the policies, laws, and programs that are in place. The truth is, I think bureaucracies are held accountable, and the goals that they set for themselves are obtainable. We need people who can implement, administrate and regulate laws and policies, and bureaucracies, and this book helped put that into perspective for me.


  1. Balla, S. J., & Gormley, W. T. (2014). Bureaucracy and Democracy: Accountability and Performance. CQ Press.

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Balancing the Importance of Accountability in Bureaucracy and Democracy. (2023, Aug 16). Retrieved from

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