Bureaucracy as a tool for politicians: Evidence from Germany
with Leander Heldring (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University)
Hybrid event
Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)
Maison des Sciences Humaines
11, Porte des Sciences
L-4366 Esch-sur-Alzette / Belval
LISER Conference room (1st floor)
11:00 am
12:30 pm
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This paper asks whether an effective bureaucracy acts as a brake on or a catalyst for repression. I compare former Prussian to non-Prussian municipalities within unified Germany in a regression discontinuity framework during the Weimar republic and the Nazi regime. During the Weimar republic, when Jews were legally protected, violence against Jews is lower in former Prussian areas. During the Nazi period, Prussian areas implemented deportations of Jews more efficiently. In both periods, Prussian areas raised taxes more effectively and spent more on public goods. These results are driven by a dual effect of the organization of local bureaucracy: Prussian areas had more specialized bureaucracies, which increased efficiency. I argue that specialization diffused responsibility, and created the moral wiggle room to implement repugnant directives. Specialization motivated the famous `cog in the wheel' defense for Nazi crimes.

Supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (RESCOM/2021/16537536)

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