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The Constitution and Public Administration

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.”




One Response to The Constitution and Public Administration

  1. Jan Enos says:

    “Inherently political”… as in inherently corruptible. I cringe when I hear so many educated people throw out “democracy” over and over again to describe our system of government. The more they use it, the more the ignorant masses begin to believe it and lose sight of what our Founders intended. True, our leadership is democratically elected, but our structure WAS that of a REPUBLIC and WAS designed to stand for equal protection under the law. We can no longer make that claim, and it seems we are deteriorating more into democratic mob rule, where two wolves and one sheep can vote on what to have for lunch (Benjamin Franklin).

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747–1813).

    Our public sectors operate in excess far outside the Constitution and know nothing of efficiency, accountability, or integrity. Jefferson and Madison are rolling in their graves as we allow government (aka public administration) tentacles to choke our freedom in the name of safety and security.

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