International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview

is the Congressional Budget Office and its counterpart on the executive side, the office of Management and Budget. The average American citizen has become uncomfortably conscious of the size of government, and many citizens would agree that the best government is one that governs least ( McNeil and Metz 1956).


Summary

The two Hoover Commissions were not the first efforts to review the structure and functions of the executive branch of government, but they were significant in that they were joint cooperative ventures between the legislative and executive branches of government and in that they were bipartisan in their underlying assumptions about the appropriate function that public administration must play in the nation. In light of the great interest today about reducing the size of federal government and curtailing its role, it is interesting to see that there is still a connection between the present political climate and that existing at the time of the Hoover Commissions. There was a conviction then, as there is now, that government should exercise restraint in the functions it provides and a belief (even though radical reform was not undertaken then) that the basic strength of the political system lies in a healthy private sector (Moe 1982).

Of the five orders given to the Hoover Commission in July 1947, all remain relevant for public administration in the 1990s-the need to (1) limit expenditures to the lowest amount, consistent with efficient performance of essential services; (2) eliminate duplication and overlapping of services; (3) consolidate services and functions of a similar nature; (4) abolish services no longer necessary; and (5) define and limit executive functions, services, and activities ( Hoover 1949, p. xiii).

Of the eight defects of government subsequently put forth in the reports of the task forces of the two Hoover Commissions, several are again pertinent to discussions going on in government today: (1) improved accountability of administrators; (2) the development of administrative capability; and (3) decentralization of routine administrative services ( Nash and Lynde 1950, p. 21).

The enduring legacies of this work by Hoover and his associates is that (1) it maintained that government is for the benefit of the all people and not for special interests; (2) it supported civil control of the government; (3) it reaffirmed the rule of the law; (4) it suggested that some services that government provides could be handled more effectively by the private sector; (5) it served the cause of states' rights by asserting that the federal government should not do what state and local government can do equally well by themselves; and, (6) it maintained that if democracy is to survive, action must be taken to bring about a coordinated, competent, and responsive public administration ( Nash and Lynde 1950).

The Hoover Commissions' reports serve to remind people that the cost of the huge United States public enterprise must be met in tax dollars paid for by the work of its citizenry, who, consequently, have the right to demand limits on governmental power and growth. The two reports bring into even sharper focus that government, in one form or another, throws its long, ever-present shadow over the United States citizen in all aspects of his or her existence. In this connection, then as now, many believe that the public has less rights and are more of a cog in the huge machinery of government than ever before ( MacNeil and Metz 1956).

BREENA E. COATES AND JEFFERY K. GUILER


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arnold, Peri E., 1976. "The First Hoover Commission and the Managerial Presidency". Journal of Politics, vol. 38 (February).

Hoover, Herbert, 1949. The Hoover Commission Report. New York: McGraw-Hill.

McNeil, Neil, and Harold W. Metz, 1956. The Hoover Report 1953-1955: What It Means to You as a Citizen and Taxpayer. New York: Macmillan.

Moe, Ronald C., 1982. The Hoover Commissions Revisited. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Nash, Bradley D., and Cornelius Lynde, 1950. A Hook in Leviathan: A Critical Interpretation of the Hoover Commission Report. New York: Macmillan.

Waldo, Dwight, 1948. The Administrative State: A Study in the Political Theory of American Public Administration. New York: Ronald Press.

Wilson, James Q., 1989. Bureaucracy. New York: Basic Books.

HOOVER, J. EDGAR (1895-1972) . The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI), from 1924 until 1972, who established a reputation as one of the most powerful career civil servants in the federal government. He served as FBI director under eight presidents, from Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon and transformed the bureau into one of the most professionally run law enforcement agencies in the world. Hoover was accused in later years of abusing the powers of the FBI, and his tenure became synonymous in many circles with unchecked executive rule. He acquired a power base so strong that he could resist the United States attorneys general and presidents to whom he was officially accountable.

John Edgar Hoover was born in Washington, D.C., on January 1, 1895, the last of four children. His father, a clerk with the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, was a frail man who was institutionalized for depression and forced to resign his government post without a pension.

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International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2
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