The winners of the 2017 Levine Prize are Gary J. Miller and Andrew B. Whitford for their book "Above Politics: Bureaucratic Discretion and Credible Commitment"
The committee says:
This interesting book turns much of the conventional wisdom about opportunistic and self-interested bureaucrats as the main problem of democratic governance upside down. Through a series of insightful vignettes and case studies, the authors powerfully argue that the moral hazard faced by politicians is a more serious problem than the proverbial runaway bureaucracy. They emphasize the benefits of a professionalized bureaucracy as a key element of checks and balances in the US system of separated powers and highlight the problematic effects of politicization on policy effectiveness. Written in an accessible style, the book will be useful as a reading for courses in different fields. The analytical leverage of the volume’s theoretical arguments is demonstrated in a case study of financial regulation in the US. The authors skilfully document how an emerging consensus favoring deregulation of financial markets gradually undermined financial regulators’ professional autonomy. The book demonstrates that exercising more control over bureaucrats may eventually lead to worse, not better performance. Miller and Whitford argue that the conventional principal agent perspective underestimates how professionalism makes autonomous bureaucracies predictable and constrains their actions. This book’s theoretical insights are highly relevant for scholars of executive politics both inside and outside the US, as it demonstrates the importance of professionalized and autonomous bureaucracies for achieving good governance. The Award Committee is pleased to see this year’s Levine Prize go to this interesting book which makes a contribution of great academic and policy significance.
The Levine Prize 2017 committee was composed of Professor Tobias Bach (University of Oslo; Chair), Professor Caspar van den Berg (Leiden University), and Professor Ting Gong (City University of Hong Kong).