Public Choice

, Volume 135, Issue 1–2, pp 11–22 | Cite as

The Politics of Bureaucracy and the failure of post-war reconstruction

  • Christopher J. Coyne


Gordon Tullock’s The Politics of Bureaucracy must be considered one of the most important works on bureaucracy ever written. In this paper, I argue that Tullock’s analysis of bureaucracy is as relevant as ever. To support this claim, I focus on U.S.-led reconstruction efforts which attempt to export liberal democracy via military occupation. Bureaucratic organizations play a key role in these reconstruction efforts and as such, Tullock’s analysis is directly relevant. It is argued that Tullock’s study clarifies not just the limits of bureaucratic activity, but also the importance of spontaneous orders for coordinating activities outside those limits and generating the very institutional context in which liberal democracy can evolve and sustain. The main conclusion is that the nature of public bureaucracy constrains the ability of the United States to exogenously impose liberal democratic institutions in foreign countries for the very reasons Tullock emphasized long ago.


Bureaucracy Reconstruction Spontaneous order 


D73 P16 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bellin, E. (2004–2005). The Iraqi intervention and democracy in comparative perspective. Political Science Quarterly, 119(4), 595–608. Google Scholar
  2. Boettke, P. J., & Coyne, C. J. (2006a, forthcoming). Liberalism in the post-9/11 world. Indian Journal of Business and Economics. Google Scholar
  3. Chandrasekaran, R. (2006). Who killed Iraq? Foreign Policy, September/October, 36–43. Google Scholar
  4. Coyne, C. (2005). The institutional prerequisites for post-conflict reconstruction. The Review of Austrian Economics, 18(3/4), 325–342. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coyne, C. (2006). Reconstructing weak and failed states: Insights from Tocqueville. Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, 31(2), 143–162. Google Scholar
  6. Diamond, L. (2005). Squandered victory: The American occupation and the bungled effort to bring democracy to Iraq. New York: Times Books. Google Scholar
  7. Dobbins, J., McGinn, J. G., Crane, K., Jones, S. G., Lal, R., Rathmell, A., Swanger, R. M., & Timilsina, A. (2003). America’s role in nation-building: From Germany to Iraq. Santa California: RAND. Google Scholar
  8. Dower, J. W. (1980). Empire and aftermath: Yoshida Shiqeru and the Japanese empire, 1878 1954. Massachusetts: Harvard Council on East Asian Studies. Google Scholar
  9. Dower, J. W. (1999). Embracing defeat: Japan in the wake of World War II. New York: Norton. Google Scholar
  10. Fukuyama, F. (1995). Trust. New York: Simon & Schuster. Google Scholar
  11. Gordon, A. (2003). A modern history of Japan. New York: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  12. Hayek, F. A. (1979). Law, legislation and liberty: Vol. III: The political order of a free people. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Google Scholar
  13. von Mises, L. (1944 [1983]). Bureaucracy. Grove City: Libertarian Press, Inc. Google Scholar
  14. Niskanen, W. N. (1971). Bureaucracy and representative government. Aldine: Atherton. Google Scholar
  15. North, D. C. (2005). Understanding the process of economic change. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  16. Packer, G. (2005). The Assassins’ gate. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux. Google Scholar
  17. Payne, J. L. (2006a). Does nation building work? The Independent Review, X(4), 597–608. Google Scholar
  18. Payne, J. L. (2006b). Did the United States create democracy in Germany? The Independent Review, XI(2), 209–222. Google Scholar
  19. Peterson, E. N. (1977). The American occupation of Germany: Retreat to victory. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Google Scholar
  20. Phillips, D. L. (2005). Losing Iraq: Inside the postwar reconstruction fiasco. New York: Basic Books. Google Scholar
  21. Ricks, T. E. (2006). Fiasco: The American military adventure in Iraq. New York: Penguin. Google Scholar
  22. Rowley, C. (2005). Introduction. In C. Rowley (Ed.), The selected works of Gordon Tullock : Vol. 6. Bureaucracy (pp. ix–xvii). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Google Scholar
  23. Stephens, J., & Ottaway, D. B. (2005). A rebuilding plan full of cracks. The Washington Post, November 20, A01. Google Scholar
  24. de Tocqueville, A. (1835/1839) [1969]. Democracy in America. J. P. Mayer (Ed.), translated by G. Lawrence. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc. Google Scholar
  25. Tullock, G. (1965) [2005]. The politics of bureaucracy. In C. Rowley (Ed.), The selected works of Gordon Tullock : Vol. 6. Bureaucracy (pp. 13–235). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Google Scholar
  26. Tullock, G. (1992) [2005]. Economic hierrchies, organization and the structure of produtin. In C. Rowley (Ed.), The selected works of Gordon Tullock : Vol. 6. Bureaucracy (pp. 241–416). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund. Google Scholar
  27. Weber, M. (1922). Economy and society. New York: Bedminster Press. Google Scholar
  28. Zakaria, F. (2003). The future of freedom: Illiberal democracy at home and abroad. New York: Norton. Google Scholar
  29. Zingales, L. (2003). For Iraq, a plan worthy of Zambia. The Washington Post, November 9, B02. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

Personalised recommendations