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From Weber to Kafka: Political Activism and the Emergence of an Inefficient Bureaucracy

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  • Gabriele Gratton
  • Luigi Guiso
  • Claudio Michelacci
  • Massimo Morelli

Abstract

A well functioning bureaucracy can promote prosperity, as advocated by Max Weber. But when bureaucracy gets jammed, it causes stagnation, as described by Franz Kafka. We propose a dynamic theory of the interaction between the production of laws and the efficiency of bureaucracy. When bureaucracy is inefficient the effects of politicians legislative acts are hard to assess. Therefore, incompetent politicians have strong incentives to pass laws to acquire the reputation of skill-full reformers. But too many, often contradictory reforms can in turn lead to a collapse in bureaucratic fficiency. This interaction leads to the existence of both Weberian and Kafkian steady states. A temporary surge in political instability, a strong pressure for reforms by the public, and the appointment of short-lived technocratic governments can determine a permanent shift towards the Kafkian nightmare steady state. Using micro-data for Italy, we provide evidence consistent with one key prediction of the theory: the relative supply of laws by incompetent politicians increases when legislatures are expected to be short.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriele Gratton & Luigi Guiso & Claudio Michelacci & Massimo Morelli, 2015. "From Weber to Kafka: Political Activism and the Emergence of an Inefficient Bureaucracy," Working Papers 560, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:560
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Elliott Ash & Massimo Morelli & Richard Van Weelden, 2015. "Election and Divisiveness: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 542, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    2. Stefano Gagliarducci & Tommaso Nannicini, 2013. "Do Better Paid Politicians Perform Better? Disentangling Incentives From Selection," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 369-398, April.
    3. Thomas, Scott & Grofman, Bernard, 1993. "The Effects of Congressional Rules about Bill Cosponsorship on Duplicate Bills: Changing Incentives for Credit Claiming," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 75(1), pages 93-98, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:macchp:v2-2599 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Margherita Negri, 2017. "Good Politicians' Distorted Incentives," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201713, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
    3. Alberto Alesina & Andrea Passalacqua, 2015. "The Political Economy of Government Debt," NBER Working Papers 21821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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