This article is divided in two sections. In the first part, after a brief excursus of the classics, the author reviews the latest works on delegation and political-bureaucratic relations in presidential, parliamentary and supranational systems. He critically analyses the literature with regard to both theoretical and empirical developments. In the second part, Franchino assesses the normative issues surrounding political-bureaucratic relations, paying particular attention to questions regarding transparency, political control and reform capacity of political systems. He concludes evaluating the quality of Italian democracy and noting that most institutional set-ups embody trade-offs between different values, so that, in order to pursue one, we have to sacrifice another. It is therefore improbable to find a set of institutions that satisfies all the desirable features of democratic processes.