Public Administration Paper on GPA Evolution Changing Perspectives

GPA Evolution Changing Perspectives


Public administration refers to a vast range of activities that revolve around a government. It includes an arrangement of public authorities and how they act within the society through the making and implementation of policies. Traditionally, the state is organized in a coterminous with the government concept. According to Van (2014), there has been an increase in the number of experts and academics who have begun differentiating between public administration and governance. In this view, the western societies have transformed to the extent that public authorities are now obliged to mind the way they conduct their activities in the public interest and the functioning in their internal models. Precisely, proponents of the governance concept propose that it only involves the changes in the public administration itself and acts as a catalyst to the transformation of the state’s relations in the society (Koliber et al., 2010).  Thus, the field involves the provision of goods to its people in a democratic manner. In the establishment of the study of administration as an academic field in the 19th century, Wilson (1887), urged that politics be separated from the administration. In essence, this field consists of three oscillations which include: the establishment of separation from the policy, clear distinction between democracy and efficiency, and the constant oscillation while studying the field, whether it should be analyzed or theorized by normative methods. This essay will describe the changes, perspectives, and persons who were involved in the evolution of public administration.

Historical Evolution of Public Administration

Immediately after the civil war, during the high times of political patronage in the United States, Wilson called for the separation of politics from the public administration. His outcry was a response to the Pendleton civil service reform act that established the merit base system meant for bureaucrats. He urged for the civil service to take a more business approach in performing its duties to be more efficient and profitable. He expressed the sentiment because the political dichotomy brought a solid argument compared to administrative management.  During the 20th century, critics such as Gulick, Osborne, and White supported Wilson’s arguments and used them to advocate for the improvement of local governments. They joined up and formed a group that set up the bureau of municipal research in New York, to study the government’s use of resources belonging to the city. The department, as put by Stiver (2013), thus, created an independent watchdog on the government. It also formed the foundation of the training of future bureaucrats for managing city policies, budgets, and rules.

The Old Public Administration

Influenced by Max Weber’s ideas, the approach in the civil service after the 20th century was based on bureaucracy and the twin principles of meritocracy and hierarchy. Initially, it was introduced as a part of the vast bureaucratic reforms made in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century meant to overcome patrimonial systems of administration in which there were favoritism and patronage in the government. The approach contained some distinctive features that relied on guidelines and centralized control, separated policy making, implementation, and used hierarchy in the organizational structure according to Osborne (2006). The watchwords used were effectiveness and efficiency while managing human resources. Based on Minogue (2013) and McCourt (2013) features which include: administration of continuous, ruled and predictable government and a separation between politics and elected politicians on the one hand and administration and appointed administrators on the other.

The command and control were the main approaches used in public administration concernoing bureaucratic systems in the United States. Bureaucracy in the United States was quite small because of the American Revolution at that time against the executive power and British rule. During this period, the president through the law had the power to appoint officials and heads of departments. He was further empowered to oversee the execution of new laws. Specifically, Congress was granted power to a public office, control commerce, build roads, and regulate money value. Thus, bureaucracy was much practiced in the administration. Under George Washington’s regime, the administration was minimal and enough to ensure basic tasks were accomplished. During his time as president, a department of state was created to oversee international issues, another treasury department was formed for coinage control, and another department of war established to administer the armed forces (Argnoff and McGuire, 2012). The employees placed in these departments were the main portion of the federal bureaucracy during the initial decades of the republic. However, two major developments increased bureaucracy beyond its humble beginnings.

First, there was the rise of centralized party politics during the 1830s. This was under President Andrew Jackson when most party loyalists filled bureaucratic positions in the country. Hence, this was the genesis of the spoil system which entailed the transformation of political appointments into political patronages by the president. Appointments were based on party loyalty. It involved the use of state resources for personal gains and rewarding individuals after providing political support. The new resident appointed the case that the current or new government would work better of those officials was the case. The system mainly involved serving in the interest of enforcing party loyalty by engaging party loyalists in government departments. Hence, the number of posts that the president was allowed to appoint heads continued to swell over the following decades.

Secondly, industrialization in the 19th century led to increased in population and growth of the U.S economy. In turn, these developments led to urban growth in different parts in the east and Midwest. Communication lines and railways drew the country closer together, thus led to increases in federal centralization. The government was involved in many counts of creating concessions for giving land to western railways that stretched across the plains into the Rocky Mountains. Thus, the changes brought about regulatory framework that emerged in the wake of the 20th century.

The fall of Political Patronage

The advantage connected to patronage was that it brought about party loyalty through engaging the government in a responsive action to the electorate thus keeping election turn out robust. Nonetheless, it remained to be a reciprocal system. Individuals who sort for positions in the civil service would only pledge their support to a specific patron who would later grant their wishes. Thus, this system directed government resources and plans towards rewarding of a few individuals that had pledged their support for the elected politicians (Stiver, 2013). It only replaced the systems fostered by early presidents like Thomas Jefferson where the elite and most learned people in the country rose to the high levels of government based on their status. Fortunately, criticism towards the spoil system grew in the mid-1860s, and this was after many administrative scandals during President Ulysses S. Grant’s time.

As the negative effects of bureaucracy continued to increase, calls for reforms in the civil service continued to rise. Those supporting the current spoil system held firm that their positions were fairly earned while those against the system suggested that there was a need for federal legislation to ensure that awarding of jobs were merit based. Eventually, after the assassination of James Garfield, the then president, the congress responded by reforming the Pendleton act of 1883. The law established the civil service commission is based on fair, open, and competitive examinations under a merit system. After this law had been passed, numerous reforms in the public administration continued into the 20th century.

President Woodrow Wilson, often known as the father of public administration, advocated for discipline in the area. He felt that running a constitutional government was getting harder, compared to framing one. According to him, “it is the object of administrative study to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost efficiency.” (Osborne, 2010). He proposed that public administration should be based on the science of management, and administering of governments should be a concern of political science. Thus, the public administration should be free from political manipulations. Furthermore, he insisted that politics should be separated from administration through the following ways: improving its efficiency through business activities, training management to increase effectiveness, and comparing private and public organizations (Van, 2014). His main point was that bureaucracy should be sensitive by understanding public opinion, and at the same time, free from political interference.  He went further to state that separating administration from politics was an ideal rather than an achievable reality.

Bureaucracy Comes Of Age

In the wake of the 20th century, the United States experienced great bureaucratic growth. After the establishment of the interstate commerce commission in 1887, the Federal Reserve board in 1913, and federal trade commission in 1914. At the beginning of the great depression in 1929, unemployment levels in the United States increased. there anfore, increas ing poverty levels and food shortages. When the Republican president failed to change the situation a, Democrat president won the elections in 1932 in an overwhelming fashion. The new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, together with the United States Congress, went on immediately to change the government’s programs into more efficient designs that would revive the economy and stimulate the development of the economy. In the 1940s, federal bureaucracy grew with the addition of federal deposit Insurance Corporation that was meant to regulate and protect banking services and companies together with their workers and securities exchange in the country.

During President Lyndon B. Johnson’s regime, about 700,000 American workers were employed by the federal bureaucracy, and the number increased to 2.5 million, while the federal budget reached $332 billion (Rittle and Weber, 2015). His rule aimed at relieving suffering from the citizens and accomplish well in the society. After the enactment of the economic opportunity act in 1964, jobs, were created through job corps and neighborhood corps (Rittle and Weber, 2015). He improved funding of public education, improvement of Medicare and national insurance for the elderly.

New Public Governance and Future Trends In Administration

The current society is dependent on the government’s provision of public goods and enhancement of high quality in life. The government achieves these objectives through homeland security, taxation, education, and foreign affairs. As the society grows, the more the government needs to expand its services, and thus bureaucracy and public administration become more challenging. The current administration is more bureaucratic in that; there is more division of labor and work is divided and assigned to different departments.  The new public governance has replaced classical civil service in the United States. The former approaches in the civil service were unable to deal with the increasing complexities such as globalization and the networked society. According to Osborne (2010), public policy making and delivery of service are increasing within multi-level settings in which former policy fields were based on individualization and density of information. Thus, since the society is dealing with a wide range of challenges, the solutions are not provided by a single entity that is operating alone (Rittle & Webber, 2015). Thus, the current administration includes the fragmented capacity of governance, and a greater coordination and working together has increased.

After the financial crisis and several scandals in public delivery of services, the idea of new public governance was introduced as an alternative to the latter. Critics suggested that governance should be divided into more networked structures that work in collaboration and use public policy to shape network functions. These practices have now made up a large part of the current United States government alongside classical public bureaucracy. The theories and methodologies based on the civil service were developed to form a single network governance (Agranoff & Mcguire, 2012). However, according to a study conducted by the New York Times in 2012 on new public management, that it is unclear whether the innovations in public governance will replace existing public management practices. Thus, the future only seems to have more hybrid forms of public administration.

The current administration is based on network governance, where there is greater emphasis on success. There is increased complexity since tasks have been divided among many public service departments, thus increasing efficiency and effectiveness in public funds management (Koliba et al., 2010). Future trends in the civil service will involve more networked governance and a more transparent governance in which the public opinion will have more weight than political views. Public funds will be effectively distributed among tasks meant to improve the citizen’s living standards, and America will experience more public participation in the administration.

To conclude, public policy has evolved in the recent decades through an increase in public involvement and bureaucracy. There is increased representation by gender, race, and different classes. Unlike in the past where only the wealthy and elite in the society were given positions in public offices while the everyday citizens were left with no say. Before the rapid transformation that mainly took place under President Willson’s regime, public positions were only given to party loyalists, and government’s agenda was based on increasing party loyalty and rewarding those who supported the elected leaders. However, after the rapid transformation, more people were employed in public offices, and employment was based on academic qualifications. More people became engaged, and their standards of living increased. Government tasks were divided among more departments which made it easier for tasks to be accomplished. Additionally, public works such as Medicare, insurance for the elderly, and security improved. The American economy was thus able to recover from the great regression.



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