The Impact of Bureaucracy on Public Administration: A Historical Perspective
In this paper, I will discuss the relations of bureaucracy and public administration and administrative reforms in recent American history. In the United States, bureaucracy has been a controversial topic since the nation’s founding. Critics argue that bureaucracy is a hindrance to democracy and Liberty, while proponents claim that it is necessary for the effective functioning of government. The truth lies somewhere in between. Bureaucracy can be a force for good or for ill, depending on how it is used and who is controlling it.
2. What Is Public Administration?
Public administration is “the activity of government concerned with the implementation of policy” (Bardach & Kagan, 2013, p. 3). It encompasses all aspects of government, from formulating and enacting laws to implementing and enforcing them. In other words, public administration is the nuts and bolts of government. It is the work that must be done in order to keep the machinery of government running smoothly.
3. What Is Bureaucracy?
Bureaucracy is “a form of organization characterized by hierarchy, specialization, formal rules and regulations, and a professionalized staff” (Bardach & Kagan, 2013, p. 4). In other words, it is a type of organization in which there is a clear chain of command and workers are specialized in particular tasks. bureaucracies are often seen as bloated and inefficient, but they can also be lean and efficient if they are properly managed.
4. The Relationship Between Public Administration and Bureaucracy
Public administration cannot exist without bureaucracy; the two are intimately linked. All public administrations have bureaucracies, though the size and scope of these bureaucracies vary from country to country. In the United States, the federal bureaucracy employs over two million people (Bardach & Kagan, 2013). This vast bureaucracy carries out the day-to-day work of government, from issuing passports to collecting taxes. While some bureaucracies are small and simple, others are large and complex. Regardless of their size or complexity, all bureaucracies share one essential characteristic: they are staffed by career civil servants who are expected to serve the government faithfully regardless of which party is in power.
5. Administrative Reforms in Recent American History
There have been several major attempts to reform the bureaucracy in recent American history. These reforms have been undertaken by both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The first major reform effort was undertaken by Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1977 (Bardach & Kagan, 2013). Carter’s reform agenda was aimed at making the bureaucracy more efficient and responsive to citizen needs. To this end, he created new procedures for hiring and firing civil servants, established performance standards for government employees, and created an Office of Management and Budget to oversee the efficiency of government agencies. Though Carter’s reforms met with some success, they were eventually undone by his Republican successor, Ronald Reagan.
Reagan came into office with a very different vision for the role of government than Carter had had. Reagan believed that government was too big and needed to be shrunk down to size (Bardach & Kagan, 2013). To this end, he undertook a series of initiatives designed to cut back on the size and scope of government. Among other things, Reagan fired thousands of civil servants, slashed budgets for government programs, and eliminated entire agencies altogether. Though Reagan’s reforms did shrink the size of government, they also made it less efficient and less capable of carrying out its basic functions.
The most recent major reform effort was undertaken by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2009 (Bardach & Kagan, 2013). Like Carter, Obama was committed to making the bureaucracy more efficient and responsive to citizen needs. To this end, he created a new position of Chief Performance Officer to oversee the performance of government agencies, established a new set of standards for hiring and firing civil servants, and created an Office of Inspector General to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in the bureaucracy. Obama’s reforms have met with mixed results; some agencies have become more efficient, while others have not.
In conclusion, bureaucracy is a necessary part of public administration, but it can also be a force for good or for ill. Administrative reforms in recent American history have had mixed results; some have improved the efficiency of government, while others have not.
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