Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

The Economic Theory of Bureaucracy: Insights from the Niskanian Model and the Misesian Approach

The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics

Volume 12, No. 3 (2009)


Governmental interventions in the economy take numerous forms, and they require the existence of a public authority, a bureaucracy, to implement them. This article proposes an analysis of the origins and the dynamics of bureaucracy, and discusses means of escaping bureaucracy’s disadvantages. I will proceed by means of a comparison between the theories of Niskanen and Mises, two impressive and very representative works from the Public Choice School and the Austrian School of economics. Although Mises and Niskanen share a common analysis of the defect of bureaucratic management, there are strong disagreements between the two authors about the reasons for the existence of bureaus and about their functioning and their deficiencies. Inevitably, the means proposed by Niskanen and Mises for escaping the disadvantages of bureaucracy are different and can not be reconciled.


Carnis, Laurent A. H. “The Economic Theory of Bureaucracy: Insights from the Niskanian Model and the Misesian Approach.” The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 12, No. 3 (2009): 57–78.

All Rights Reserved ©
What is the Mises Institute?

The Mises Institute is a non-profit organization that exists to promote teaching and research in the Austrian School of economics, individual freedom, honest history, and international peace, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. 

Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC, we advocate a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order. We believe that our foundational ideas are of permanent value, and oppose all efforts at compromise, sellout, and amalgamation of these ideas with fashionable political, cultural, and social doctrines inimical to their spirit.

Become a Member
Mises Institute