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The "Budget-Maximizing Bureaucrat" Around The World: The Budgetary Preferences Of Public Employees Across Countries

Michael E. Bednarczuk
PFM, Vol. 21 No. 1, 1-29 (2022)

Are bureaucrats "budget-maximizers"? There has been mixed support for this argument. Furthermore, these different results tend to be clustered by geography. Is there a country-specific dimension to this theory? This article addresses these contradictory findings by modeling both the individual-level budget preferences of bureaucrats while also accounting for country-level political and economic variables. It is hypothesized that those public servants in bureaus directly impacted by increases in spending should want more government spending than those who are not. Additionally, bureaucrats should have no uniform preference for spending on government transfer payments. While the economic and political contexts of the countries also impacted preferences, hierarchical random intercept models using data from the International Social Survey Program in almost two dozen countries found robust support for the hypotheses. These results support the notion that bureaucrats are budget-maximizers, but that this behavior is largely confined to their specific bureau; furthermore, this article finds international support for these hypotheses.

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