How the Civil Service Works

How the Civil Service Works

How the Civil Service Works

How the Civil Service Works

Excerpt

My main purpose in this book is to provide an account of some of the methods by which Great Britain is governed, and the particular responsibilities of the major departments of the State. I have elected first to describe the sort of people involved--all administration is fundamentally a human problem; secondly, to illustrate the processes of consultation; and thirdly to describe straightforwardly the structure and functions of the principal departments. Examination of the machinery available to us is the first step towards efficiency in a democratic society. I have also considered whether that examination leads to any useful suggestions for improvement, and have put forward some of my own ideas on this aspect of the subject.

Curiously enough in such complex times, the study of public administration is little undertaken; and I am struck by the fact that much of the work done is very much for specialists by specialists, and thus in practice narrow in its approach. I used to find surprising the commonplace claim that every generation finds the world in which it lives a more complicated place than its ancestors must have done. I argued that because a book can now readily be written about how to design automatic remote controls for an atomic pile, or why a boy murdered his mother, we know more about science and human nature than our fathers. But the fact is that we need not only knowledge but to apply understanding, on a wide scale, by others besides specialists. If the complexity of the world is greater, we should study, intensively and broadly, the simplest ways of managing the world. As Professor E. H. Carr has said in his talks broadcast in May and June 1951, we need to develop the new arts of social and economic engineering into a coherent pattern suited to the new mass 'democracy'.

In modern society, rival economic and moral theories have arisen, of which the cold war is the symptom. In primitive society discussion is at a minimum and confined to lack of resources, because being poor makes common purpose easier. When there is much to divide, there is time to argue about who should do the division and how the division should be made. In the twentieth century discussion about dividing the cake and who should handle the knife has been narrowed, from the purely economic standpoint, to one between the advocates of socialism . . .

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