Good Government
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Good Government

The Relevance of Political Science

Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

In all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the utmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. Problems like high infant mortality, lack of access to safe water, unhappiness and poverty are not primarily caused by a lack of technical equipment, effective medicines or other types of knowledge generated by the natural or engineering sciences. Instead, the critical problem is that the majority of the world’s population live in societies that have dysfunctional government institutions. Central issues discussed in the book include: how can good government be conceptualized and measured, what are the effects of ‘bad government’ and how can the quality of government be improved?
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Chapter 3: Public Administration Around the World

Carl Dahlström, Victor Lapuente and Jan Teorell


Carl Dahlström, Victor Lapuente and Jan Teorell It has been argued that bureaucratic structures have important effects on political, economic, and social outcomes. Scholars in economics and sociology argue that a strong and well-organized bureaucracy contributed to the economic growth in the Asian miracle economies of the 1990s as well as to the economic growth more generally in semi-industrial countries (Amsden 1989; Wade 1990; World Bank 1993; Evans and Rauch 1999). Other scholars claim that the way state bureaucracies are organized also strengthens poverty reduction in developing countries (Henderson et al. 2007). With reference to rich Western democracies, political scientists have long argued that bureaucratic structures directly affect policy making, both historically and today (Heclo 1974; Weir and Skocpol 1985; King and Rothstein 1993; Marier 2005; Dahlström 2009). Within the field of public administration, scholars have defended the bureaucratic organization, warned against the effects of new public management (NPM) reforms and are now predicting the “rediscovery” of bureaucracy (Suleiman 2003; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2004; Olsen 2006). However, in spite of the attention paid to bureaucratic structures, there are very few large cross-country comparisons where the organization of the bureaucracy is actually incorporated. There are several reasons for this. First, the “sore point in the development of comparative public administration” is the lack of reliable data on bureaucratic structures (Brans 2003, p. 426; see also Lapuente 2007, p. 301). There are numerous cross-country indicators on the outcomes of bureaucracies, both from private organizations (such as the widely used Political...

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