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Economizing Attention: Bureaucracy and Bottom-up Signaling in the Administrative State
Unformatted Document Text:  Abstract This paper examines the role of the federal bureaucracy as the ”antennae” of government. The bureaucracycompensates for the attention limits of political institutions in sending signals about important policyproblems to the elected branches of government. I develop and test an information processing theory ofbureaucratic influence that relates scarcity of attention and institutional organization to the content anddynamics of policy agendas. This research addresses two primary questions: 1. What effect does bureaucratic signaling about policy problems have on the policy agendas of Congress and the President? 2. How does attention and authoritative political decisions affect the content and dynamics of signaling by the federal bureaucracy? First, the information processing theory views bureaucratic influence as stemming primarily from the attention limits of political institutions as opposed to expertise or agenda control. By paying attention toproblems not currently on the institutional agenda of the elected branches of government, the bureaucracyallows the governing system to address many more issues than would otherwise be possible. Second, ex-isting literature based in the preferences of political institutions and a focus on control necessarily centerson the preferences of agencies and elected officials with regard to policy solutions rather than policy prob-lems. My theorizing leads to the analytical severing of the problem and solution space. The informationprocessing theory turns attention to policy problems and focuses on the ways in which federal agenciessignal the dimensions of policy problems relevant to choice at higher levels of government, rather thanparticular preferences with regard to solutions. Third, my approach moves beyond the examination ofagency enforcements and other downstream agency outputs, which are themselves products of substan-tive decisions made at an earlier point in time, and turns attention to agency decision making, substantiveagency agendas, and how these influence, and are influenced by, policy agendas at higher levels of gov-ernment.

Authors: Workman, Samuel.
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Abstract
This paper examines the role of the federal bureaucracy as the ”antennae” of government. The bureaucracy
compensates for the attention limits of political institutions in sending signals about important policy
problems to the elected branches of government. I develop and test an information processing theory of
bureaucratic influence that relates scarcity of attention and institutional organization to the content and
dynamics of policy agendas. This research addresses two primary questions:
1. What effect does bureaucratic signaling about policy problems have on the policy agendas of
Congress and the President?
2. How does attention and authoritative political decisions affect the content and dynamics of signaling
by the federal bureaucracy?
First, the information processing theory views bureaucratic influence as stemming primarily from the
attention limits of political institutions as opposed to expertise or agenda control. By paying attention to
problems not currently on the institutional agenda of the elected branches of government, the bureaucracy
allows the governing system to address many more issues than would otherwise be possible. Second, ex-
isting literature based in the preferences of political institutions and a focus on control necessarily centers
on the preferences of agencies and elected officials with regard to policy solutions rather than policy prob-
lems. My theorizing leads to the analytical severing of the problem and solution space. The information
processing theory turns attention to policy problems and focuses on the ways in which federal agencies
signal the dimensions of policy problems relevant to choice at higher levels of government, rather than
particular preferences with regard to solutions. Third, my approach moves beyond the examination of
agency enforcements and other downstream agency outputs, which are themselves products of substan-
tive decisions made at an earlier point in time, and turns attention to agency decision making, substantive
agency agendas, and how these influence, and are influenced by, policy agendas at higher levels of gov-
ernment.


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