Throughout this book, the terms "bureaucracy" and "bureaucrat" are used in a neutral, nonpejorative sense. Government "bureaucrats" refers not only to career civil service employees, including many of extraordinary competence, but also political appointees, many of whom are outstanding and come to government for relatively short periods after successful experiences in the private or nonprofit sectors, or academia. This book also assumes that "politics" in a representative democracy is a necessary and honorable activity, even though some politicians may not be a credit to their vocation, just as is the case with some doctors, lawyers, engineers, and people in business.
The growth in power of government bureaucracies was one of the more profound developments of twentieth-century society. What we normally refer to as the bureaucracies have a daily impact on the quality of life of every person in this country and many millions outside our borders. The president, governors, mayors, legislators, judges, and many private citizens now find themselves increasingly concerned with how bureaucracies are using this power (i.e., what they are doing and how well they are doing it).
Accountability is at the heart of these concerns. For what and to whom are bureaucracies answerable? How are they held accountable? This book discusses these questions, primarily in the context of the federal bureaucracy. While there are problems of accountability with regard to elected as well as appointed bureaucrats, the focus here is on accountability of non- elected bureaucrats.