Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Kernell. 2001. Rural service delivery as a critical test of alternative models of American political development. Studies in American Political Development 15: 103-112.
See also Kernell and McDonald 1999.
Are bureaucracies autonomous, or are they merely agents with some discretion? Kernell responds to Carpenter's (2001) assertion of autonomy by showing that Carpenter's own case study suggests that the bureaucracy was only working as Congress's agent.
TWO SCHOOLS IN AMERICAN POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
Much of this boils down to alternations between divided and unifed government. It was only when there was a unified Republican government that the party politicians made a serious effort to implement rural mail delivery. When they did so, they targeted delivery for maximum political advantage. Those Reps in greatest need of an electoral boost had the most new mail routes added to their districts.
The post office is a dutiful agent of Congress, not an autonomous organization. Kernell presents abundant evidence of this fact. Although it is unclear to me why these reforms happened at the specific time they did (and not sooner), it's clear from pp. 110-112 that Congress led the rural delivery reforms, and Congress did so to political advantage--it was not a politically neutral move advanced by the post office.
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