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.
Wilson. 1989. Bureaucracy: What government agencies do and why they do it.
As the title says, Wilson seeks to explain what government agencies (bureaucracies) do and why they do it. More specifically, he seeks to explain why bureaucracies are inefficient--that is, why there is always a long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, but never at McDonald's. He attributes this inefficiency to bureaucratic rules and procedures, including norms, rules, incentives, goals, context, constraints, culture, and values.
The popular complaint is that bureaucracies behave as they do because they are run by unqualified "bureaucrats" and are enmeshed in "rules" and "red tape", but the scientific answer involves more analysis. To explain why government agencies behave as they do, it is crucial to recognize that they are government bureaucracies, not independent businesses, which gives them a completely different set of incentives (p. 115).
Bureaucracies are subject to three main constraints; these constraints are the independent variables explaining why bureaucracies are inefficient. In particular:
Related to these constraints are a few other factors affecting bureaucratic behavior:
Research by the same authors
Research on similar subjects