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This paper points to the poor state of empirical measures of the quality of states, that is, executive branches and their bureaucracies. Much of the problem is conceptual, since there is very little agreement on what constitutes high-quality government. The paper suggests four approaches: (1) procedural measures, such as the Weberian criteria of bureaucratic modernity; (2) capacity measures, which include both resources and degree of professionalization; (3) output measures; and (4) measures of bureaucratic autonomy. The paper rejects output measures, and suggests a two-dimensional framework of using capacity and autonomy as a measure of executive branch quality. This framework explains the conundrum of why low-income countries are advised to reduce bureaucratic autonomy while high-income ones seek to increase it.