In Gary Miller and Andrew Whitford’s Above Politics: Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment, the authors brilliantly reconsider the cluster of theories most frequently used to examine “bureaucratic control” (collectively known as Principal-Agent Theory [PAT]). To say that this is all they do, however, sells this impressive contribution short. Miller and Whitford force us to think carefully in both logical and empirically grounded terms about the “confrontation” between professional bureaucrats and elected officials in a separation of powers system and its implications for the viability of our democratic institutions. In doing so, they offer not only a rousing defense of professionalism but also a sobering lesson in our current political environment.

Since Woodrow Wilson’s introduction of the field of public administration...

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