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date: 26 February 2020

Summary and Keywords

Research in public administration and political science in the late 20th century and early 21st century has identified several factors influencing the effectiveness of political appointees, with a particular emphasis on the United States (given the outsized role of political appointees in the American system relative to those of other industrialized democracies). Within the American system, the advice and consent process means that acting and interim officials often run agencies and departments while nominees await Senate confirmation; however, that these individuals lack the perceived legitimacy that accompanies Senate confirmation means they are (often) less effective at ensuring bureaucratic acquiescence to the preferences of the president. Additionally, confirmed nominees can also run into trouble, as many are often appointed by presidents to “rein in” the departments or agencies they are chosen to oversee; this can result in deterioration in the relationship between themselves and careerists, which ultimately reduces the effectiveness of appointees. Individual variations in the leadership style of appointees in the United States can also affect their effectiveness and abilities to work with careerists. And scholars should spend time and effort considering the theoretical foundations of what it means to be “effective” and perhaps consider the development of new empirical operationalizations thereof. Accordingly, there is merit in assessing pertinent experience in other jurisdictions, including in Britain and South Korea to which brief reference is made in the discussion.

Keywords: American politics, political appointees, bureaucracy, public administration and policy, bureaucratic effectiveness, bureaucratic politics, executive politics, separation of powers

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