Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It

By James Q. Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Interests

WHEN the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created in 1933, it was hailed by liberals as evidence of a new national commitment to regional planning linked with grass-roots democracy. When he sent the TVA bill to Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt described it as involving national planning for a complete river watershed" that would address all forms of human concern."1David Lilienthal, a member of the first TVA board of directors and later its chairman, wrote rhapsodically about his experience in a book entitled, Democracy on the March.2 To him, the TVA was the crown jewel of the New Deal era because it would address comprehensively a variety of ills--ruinous floods, rural poverty, and economic backwardness--by means of a semiautonomous program of conservation, flood control, power production, agricultural development, and regional planning. The enthusiasm of liberals was matched by the anger of conservatives who believed that all this talk of planning was nothing less than the beginning of "creeping socialism."

Within three decades the positions had reversed. Now liberals were attacking the TVA as a ruthless and insensitive power company that in its single-minded devotion to generating electricity was despoiling the environment and that in its obsession with nuclear power was risking catastrophe. One journalist lamented that the TVA had lost "the aggressive, idealistic fervor of the early days."3 Environmentalists complained of the pollution caused by the TVA's coal-burning power plants and fought the agency's plan to build the Tellico Dam on a river inhabited by the snail darter, a fish on the endangered-species list. Many liberals felt that a dream had been betrayed: The TVA had nothing to do with grass-roots democracy on the march.4

What had happened? The most widely accepted explanation for the

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Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the New Edition ix
  • Notes xvi
  • Preface xvii
  • Acknowledgments xxi
  • Part I - Organizations 1
  • Chapter 1 - Armies, Prisons, Schools 3
  • Chapter 2 - Organization Matters 14
  • Part II - Operators 29
  • Chapter 3 - Circumstances 31
  • Conclusions 48
  • Chapter 4 - Beliefs 50
  • Conclusions 70
  • Chapter 5 - Interests 72
  • Conclusions 88
  • Chapter 6 - Culture 90
  • Part III - Managers 111
  • Chapter 7 - Constraints 113
  • Chapter 8 - People 137
  • Conclusions 153
  • Chapter 9 - Compliance 154
  • Summary: Achieving Compliance 174
  • Part IV - Executives 177
  • Chapter 10 - Turf 179
  • Conclusions 195
  • Chapter 11 - Strategies 196
  • Conclusions 217
  • Chapter 12 - Innovation 218
  • Part V - Context 233
  • Chapter 13 - Congress 235
  • Appendix - Congressional Dominance: a Closer Look 254
  • Chapter 14 - Presidents 257
  • Chapter 15 - Courts 277
  • Chapter 16 - National Differences 295
  • Part VI - Change 313
  • Chapter 17 - Problems 315
  • Conclusions 331
  • Chapter 18 - Rules 333
  • Chapter 19 - Markets 346
  • Conclusions 363
  • Chapter 20 - Bureaucracy and the Public Interest 365
  • Notes 379
  • Index 409
  • Subject Index 418
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