In this article we outline a new framework for the formal analysis of bureaucratic politics. It departs from standard neoclassical approaches, notably those of Niskanen (1971) and Peltzman (1976), in several important respects. First our approach explicitly models a system of three-way interaction among bureaus, politicians, and interest groups. Second, it allows for institutional features of each type of participant. Third, it is a model of dynamic process. Fourth, participants make choices adoptively rather than optimizing. Fifth, participants are only minimally informed.
The result is a dynamic model of adaptive behavior, very much in the spirit of Simon's (1947) behavioral tradition, that offers a new perspective on political control, bureaucratic power, and the “intelligence of democracy.”