Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It

By James Q. Wilson | Go to book overview
Save to active project

CHAPTER 14
Presidents

ALMOST EVERY PRESIDENT in modern times has admitted to his advisors, if he has not shouted from the rooftops, that he rued the day a "disappointed office seeker" killed President Garfield, thereby energizing the civil-service reform movement. Presidents see much of the bureaucracy as their natural enemy and always are searching for ways to bring it to heel. Even though they can already make upward of four thousand appointments outside the merit system, many presidents would like to make even more. Those who do not want more appointments want better ones, and so they encourage the promotion into the top administrative ranks of senior civil servants who seem to be their ideological allies. And when they are not reaching for more numbers or searching for purer ideology, presidents reorganize agencies and create White House offices designed to oversee, coordinate, and (if necessary) do the work of the bureaucracy.

All this would seem quite strange to the British prime minister. Beyond her cabinet she makes perhaps a dozen "political" appointments to the bureaucracy and seems quite content with that. The British civil service is satirized, as in the popular television series Yes, Minister, but it is not confronted. In the mid-1940s, Labour prime ministers worried that the "Tory" civil service would undo their policies, but when that did not happen they stopped worrying and their successors spent little time trying to get "our kind of people" into top posts. Unlike the White House, Number 10 Downing Street is not filled with special assistants, special advisors, counselors, committees, and offices designed to ride herd on the bureaucracy.

Why the difference? In a word, the answer is the Constitution. That document makes the president and Congress rivals for control of the American administrative system. The rivalry leads to struggle and the struggle breeds frustration. Those agencies that Congress regards as un

-257-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 442

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?