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The politics of bureaucratic competition: The case of natural resource policy

By Todd Kunioka and Lawrence S. Rothenberg


Many concerned with how government functions consider creating competition between bureaucracies an attractive option. Others are skeptical of what impact rival agencies have when they are operating within a political context. Reflecting these discrepant viewpoints, some scholars believe that regulators will compete vigorously for resources and responsibilities; others assert that agency members will act passively as they attempt to protect their autonomy. To assess these contrasting perspectives and determine why competitive agency structures might exist, the following analysis examines one of the classic situations where agencies can serve as functional substitutes: the relationship between the United States Forest Service and the National Park Service. The results demonstrate that agencies put far more weight on autonomy than competition. The principal advantage of functional rivalry for politicians-at least where federal lands are concerned-is to expand the choice set of alternatives available to them.

DOI identifier: 10.2307/3325347
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