Before I can tell you about the four general kinds of bureaucracies that exist within the United States government, I feel almost obligated to provide a definition. It seems like bureaucracy is a thing that bothers people regardless of their political affiliation. I sometimes wonder why this bureaucracy brings about such trouble.
Perhaps it's because a bureaucracy can be defined as a complex, multilayered organization or system. Dealing with such a complicated, intricate system can lead to frustration.
A bureaucracy can also be defined as a system of government in which the critical choices are made by non-elected officials.
If I put the two definitions together, I have a serpentine system composed of unelected people making important decisions. Perhaps that definition makes it clearer why bureaucracies often receive contempt.
With that out of the way, I can finally tell you about the four types of bureaucracies.
- Cabinet departments
The cabinet departments are each in charge of specific policy areas. The Department of Education is in charge of education. The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of security. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is in charge of housing. I think you get the jist.
Each cabinet is headed by a secretary. The president nominates the secretary. Congress then confirms or rejects the appointment.
- Government corporations
Yes, the government has ties to many corporations. When the United States government creates a corporation, it's sometimes referred to as a "quasi- corporation." That term denotes that it possesses some of the functions of a corporation, yet, unlike a typical corporation, it's not partly or entirely run by a country's government. Examples of past and present government corporations include Amtrak, the United States Postal Service, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae.
- Independent agencies
Like cabinets, independent agencies deal with specific areas. Unlike cabinets, independent agencies aren’t a part of a cabinet. That’s what makes them independent. Examples of independent agencies include the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA.
- Regulatory agencies
As the name suggests, these agencies implement and/or take away rules and regulations. The Federal Aviation Administration regulates air travel and air safety. The National Labor Relations Board regulates labor practices.
One final note: like people, sometimes bureaucracies can have multiple identities. For example, it's true that the Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency. It's not a part of a president's cabinet. Yet it's also true that the Federal Communications Commission is a regulatory agency. It regulates the internet, TV, cell phones, and other modes and means of communication.