At the time the U.S. Constitution was drafted, little was said about the idea of an administrative state due to the Framers’ distrust in centralized power and the type of bureaucracy existent in Britain at the time.
“But it has evolved in the U.S. as a uniquely American enterprise; it is still quite small, in relation to the bureaucracies of other industrialized democracies, and arguably more responsive than many of them,” said Dr. Angela Narasimhan, assistant professor of political science.
Narasimhan marked Constitution Day (Sept. 17) in her Public Policy (POL 331) course with a discussion of “Public Administrative Theory and the Separation of Powers,” published in 1983 by David H. Rosenbloom.
“Rosenbloom’s work explores the interaction between the three federal branches of government in the implementation and evaluation of public policy and serves as a useful reminder of how public agencies, unlike private corporations, are constrained by their role as democratic institutions,” she said. “This work was important in that it was part of the new public administration movement that challenged the notion that public administration could be neutral and efficiency-driven like organizations in the private sector.”
That view, outlined in the scientific management paradigm, was articulated in the early 1900s by such scholars as Max Weber and Luther Gulick “in the hopes that bureaucracy could be cleansed of corrupting political influences and made more efficient,” she explained.
“As Gulick noted, a hierarchical organization would help achieve these goals, and underlying that hierarchy is a clear chain of command, with bureaucrats only ‘serving one master’ in order to clarify responsibility and promote accountability.”
However, explained Narasimhan, new public administration theorists like Rosenbloom contend that public agencies have more than one master: they answer not only to the top level of management, including the head of the agency and the president, but also have direct relationships with Congress, who makes the policy that they implement; the Judiciary, which reviews their actions and can challenge implementation; as well as the public, as their consumers.
“We reject the scientific management paradigm,” said Narasimhan, “because we now know that public administration is inherently political; it operates under the democratic structure of the Constitution.”