Types of Bureaucracies: Crash Course Government and Politics #16

Types of Bureaucracies: Crash Course Government and Politics #16

Hi I’m Craig and this is Crash Course: Government
& Politics and today we’re going to do something we try to do a lot at Crash Course, punch
eagles. Also help you understand the news better. Now we’re not going to explain it
like Ezra Klein, well we sort of will, or break it down into graphs and charts like
Nate Silver, or slow jam it like Jimmy Fallon. We’re not going to slow jam it, Stan? Instead
Bureaucrat Jimmy and I are going to give you some tools you need to better understand news
stories and opinions about government and politics by describing the various types
of bureaucracies that affect our lives. Ain’t that right, BJ? Yeah. [Theme Music] There are a number of ways we can try to make
sense of the vast federal bureaucracy, and one of the most straightforward is to categorize
the different agencies by type. Now labeling ’em this way doesn’t actually tell us what
they do but you’ll see them labeled this way in books and articles so you should be familiar
with the terms that political writers use. The first type of bureaucracy is the cabinet-level
agency, also called the executive department. Each of the fifteen departments is usually
headed by a secretary, except the Justice Department, which is run by the Attorney General.
You can find a list of the executive departments in any good textbook and I bet there might
be a list on the internet somewhere too. Maybe. But the ones you hear the most about are the
State Department, the Department of Defense, and the Treasury Department. Others, like
the Department of the Interior or Housing and Urban Development you usually only hear
about when there’s a new secretary, or a scandal. Executive departments mostly provide services
through sub-agencies. For example the FBI is technically part of the Department of Justice
and the FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. There are also independent
agencies that are very similar to executive departments because their heads require Senate
confirmation. Well their whole body requires — their — I’m talking about the head like
they’re the boss — the head of the agency. The best example here is the CIA: Central Intelligence
Agency, but NASA is another independent agency. Next we have the independent regulatory commissions
which are supposed to be further removed from presidential oversight, which makes them independent.
You can recognize them because they’re usually called commissions, like the Federal Communications
Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
They all have rule-making authority and the power to punish violations of the rules, often
through fines. If you pay attention to stories about banking, especially banking malfeasance,
you’ll find plenty of stories about SEC fines. Last, and pretty much least, frankly, are
the government corporations that are supposed to make profits but in fact tend to rely on
government subsidies to stay afloat. The U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak are the best known,
and for most Americans these are the agencies with which we have the most contact, especially
the post office. A more useful way to think about bureaucracies
is in terms of what they actually do, their functions. Although the problem here is that
many bureaucracies have more than one function. Maybe the Thought Bubble can help us out.
Thought Bubble! Let’s do this! Some bureaucracies primarily serve clients.
Many of the sub-agencies of the cabinet departments fit this bill, with the most obvious being
the Food and Drug Administration, which serves the public by testing and approving new drugs;
the Centers for Disease Control, which tries to do exactly what the name expects; and the
National Institutes of Health, which, among other things, sponsors research that improves
citizens health. All of these agencies are under the auspices of the Department of Health
and Human Services. Another good example of a client-serving agency is the Department of Agriculture,
which in addition to rating meat administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,
which is the snappy new name for food stamps. A second function that many agencies perform
is to maintain the Union. One way agencies maintain the Union is by collection revenue,
because without money the county doesn’t function. The main agency in charge of collecting revenue
is the IRS. A second form of maintaining the union is providing security for its citizens.
The Department of Justice, which prosecutes federal crimes and protects civil rights,
and the Department of Homeland Security, which, among other things, is in charge of airport
security, are the main agencies that ensure internal security. Bureaucracies also keep
Americans safe from external threats. This is the job of various intelligence services like the CIA
and NSA, and especially the Department of Defense. A third function of bureaucracies is to regulate
economic activity, primarily by creating and enforcing rules and regulations. Some of the
agencies primarily charged with enforcing regulations are housed within executive departments,
like OSHA, within the Department of Labor. Others like the FCC and SEC are independent. The fourth major function of bureaucracies
is closely related to regulating economic activity. Some bureaucracies have the primary
function of redistributing economic resources. Agencies concerned with fiscal and monetary
policy handle the inflow and outflow of money in the economy through taxes, spending and
interest rates. Providing direct aid to the poor or welfare is another function of bureaucracies
that is even more complex and controversial. Most of these agencies, like the Social Security
Administration provide direct services so we can see the overlap between the function
of agencies. Thanks Thought Bubble. I’ve been suggesting
that even though they aren’t mentioned in the Constitution, bureaucracies are pretty
powerful, so I should probably explain where that power comes from. Basically, Thor’s hammer. Actually no, it doesn’t come from that at
all. It comes from Congress, which, as we’ve seen, delegates power to executive agencies
in varying degrees. But once the agencies exist they create powers for themselves by
maximizing their budgets. Bureaucracies lobby for their own interests and the bigger and more important
they are the more money they get from Congress. We tend to think that the nation defense is
important, so the Department of Defense is able to convince Congress to give it lots of money.
Although mo’ money can lead to mo’ problems as Biggie helpfully reminded us. Money is also
probably the most important lever of power in the U.S. In addition to getting money for themselves,
another source of bureaucratic power is the expertise
of bureaucrats themselves. The President, and especially Congress,
will often rely on bureaucratic experts to tell them how a policy will be implemented. The source of their
power is the expert’s command of useful information. You shouldn’t underestimate this, as any
number of technology companies will tell you. So those are two ways of thinking about bureaucracies.
I hope that they’re helpful and at least when you hear about the FCC issuing a fine for
Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” or something, you’ll understand who’s doing the
punishing. And when you read about Congress cutting SNAP funding you’ll be like “Oh
snap! That’s tied up with the farm bill!” Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next episode. Crash Course: Government & Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course: Government comes from Voqal.
Voqal supports nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn
more about their mission and initiatives at voqal.org. Crash Course was made with the help of all
these wardrobe malfunctions. Thanks for watching.


  1. The only reason why bureaucracies are necessary is the same reason why drug addicts needs drugs. The mere existence of the State is what gives chance to corruption to exist. The entire government is cancer that is destroying the economy.

  2. Wait, food stamp are administered by Dept. of Agriculture? Weird.

    Bureaucracy, hate them, or love them, we need them… for now.

  3. I hope the next  government course go into details on each  bureaucracies. I want to know all about the DOE and NSF.

  4. how does crashcourse use images like thor and not get copyright trouble or is it fair use ? just interested

  5. I hate to nitpick, but…at 2:10…that's not an Amtrak train. That's a SEPTA train. SEPTA being the local transportation authority for the Philadelphia area; it's a consortium of six Pennsylvania counties and has nothing to do with the federal government. (I live around Philly, so I recognize SEPTA stuff on sight.) SEPTA trains do run on some Amtrak-owned track, but I don't think that section is one of them (also, that's kind of obscure).

  6. The FDA does not perform their own testing, rather they critically review research provided by those seeking approval. This is the achilles heel of the FDA.

  7. People, the eagle was born and raised to get punched by Craig. It is its only function in this life.
    They do allow it to breed with other eagles who can be released into the wild. If you keep lobbying for Craig to stop punching the eagle there will be fewer wild eagles. It is just the suffering of one for the good of the many.
    You do all want more eagles don't you?

  8. I think you could be more effective and easier to understand if you talk slower. I'm having a hard time following you.

    Unless fast talking is your gimmick. Then hey, all power to you.

  9. Americans, the majority of your tax dollar all goes towards ONE fucking department…your department of defense.

    WAKE UP!

  10. I wonder how many people watching got the Seinfeld reference. The episode is almost 20 years old already.

  11. Man it's hard to follow the politics language and terms when you're a non-native english speaker! Would really help with some subtitles, pretty please! Makes it a lot easier to understand without watching it like 5 times or pause and rewind every now and then…. (also deaf people can follow up on this interesting ehh video theme)

  12. I did this funny thing at the library. I took all the books about women rights and put them in the fiction section.

  13. Your jokes are getting better, and I like the using animated characters over the fake voices. Also I'm loving the break down of bureaucracies. I know that the last episode kind of touched on the role of bureaucracies but I would really like to see the historical context shown with them. Though that may have to be in a second season, and working with other Crash Course teachers much like the Big History series involved both history and science.

  14. Keep these coming! I love crash course gov and politics! 😀 if its not to hard a controversial do crash course Communism to tell people what it really is or crash course economics or do crash course Soviet Union (history of the cold war, corruption, world economy, proxies) Keep covering the BIG topics! 😀 btw, I wouldn't mind if you guys had to run ads to pay for this….ill watch em 🙂

  15. Keep em coming! I love crash course gov and politics! 😀 if its not too controversial or hard do crash course democracy (govs, systems, electoral systems, civic action), or crash course Communism (real communism….not "USSR" or "DPRK" or "Cuba" or "China" cause theyre not), or crash course economy! 😮 or crash course Soviet/2nd world history 😮 id watch ads if you needed them to pay for this 🙂

  16. Could you do an in depth video on the possibilities of Terra forming other planets like Venus and Mars. I only ask because in many games books and TV shows they show them doing with alien technology or some forms of advanced tech we don't have. I was just wondering if that kind of tech would be possible.

  17. I'm not normally one to point out a thing like this but… Bureaucrat Jimmy has an unfortunate acronym.

  18. I want to pay attention and be super smart and political, but I cant stop thinking about splatoon. SPLATOON!

  19. I'm a big crash course fan, I'm also a big politics follower. But I was wondering if you could do a group of episodes or one about British politics as I'm English and it would be really cool.

  20. i presume you haven't read;
    lysander spooner's, no treason the constitution of no authority 
    murray rothbard's, the anatomy of the state 
    marc steven's,  the government indicted and adventures in legal land 
    larken rose's, the iron web and the the most dangerous superstition 
    adam kokesh's, freedom

  21. Anti-Americanism is a Democratic action against the politico-economic system that murdered liberty and equality for profit.

  22. Crash Course Government: Government is Crime.  The End.
    Bureaucracies: Bureaucracy is wasteful jobs financed on stolen money by incompetent idiots who get paid despite being wasteful and incompetent non-voluntarily consumed by the "consumers" who are more like extortion victims.  The End.

  23. Not sure how relevant this is to America specifically, but could you do a video explaining anarchism (as opposed to statism) and its efficacy? Aka why do we need countries at all?

  24. Can someone explain the difference between an Independent Agency (CIA, NASA) and a regular sub-agency (FBI, FDA)?

  25. Craig… Is that a visual pun inspired by Game of Thrones? OSHA represented by Osha the wildling, who is seen bringing red tape to that office?

  26. i like ur program but why do you shout  every now n then like someone scored in a basketball game ? Too much yelling and at high pitch hurts the ears n is very distracting. Gotta set the needle back….What a pity considering the good info u teach. Sorry. No offence intended. Thx. Great show!

  27. Without the bureaucracy, we would not function as a society because the US is too large to govern without said bureaucracy. If you were paying attention, you'd know this.

    That is all.

  28. Hi, I really enjoy your lectures, I have a question. Are all government bureaucracies originate in the Executive branch?

  29. hey.. your videos have great information.. just that you talk too fast,slow it down.. all this information needs time to mellow bruh


  31. This man has committed a serious crime PUNCHING THE STATE BIRD AND NOT INCLUDING ALL FIFTY STATES, ONLY CONYINENTAL USA! 1 week sentence

  32. When he said "Each of the fifteen departments is usually headed by a secretary, except the Justice Department" I thought he was going to say it was run by DC superheroes.

  33. Man I really wanted to make it though this whole series, but this guy is just too annoying. He's just trying to hard to be funny/quirky. Glad CC got rid of him.

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