The Administration of Federal Work Relief

The Administration of Federal Work Relief

The Administration of Federal Work Relief

The Administration of Federal Work Relief

Excerpt

To capture, record, and lay the basis for the appraisal of measures instituted in the United States for grappling with the consequences of the world-wide social and technological changes that have been coming to a climax in the post-war period" was one of the major objectives of the program drawn up in 1935 by the Committee on Public Administration of the Social Science Research Council as a prospectus of research in administration.

Members of the committee and others who had been involved in the crisis government of 1917-18 lamented that no record had been kept at the time of the development of emergency administrative organization. Those responsible for devising the tools to meet the depression emergency were forced to rethink some of the same problems, perhaps to make the same choices, without knowing which of the same alternatives had presented themselves before or why they had been discarded.

The committee, accordingly, undertook several experiments in a new technique of research in public administration. With the approval of the administrators, an outside observer was to be introduced into a new administrative agency to keep a running account of administrative developments and their basis. Naturally, such an account could be meaningful only if the administrators cooperated by discussing freely with the observer their reasons for action, their interpretation of events. This free confidence could be invited only upon the assurance that it would be safeguarded. The results of the observations were to be made available to aid in meeting subsequent crises of a similar character, involving similar approaches. Ultimately it might be possible to give scholars access to the data recorded as source material for the study of the science of administration.

In May, 1935, within a month after the approval of the joint resolution of Congress appropriating $4,880,000,000 for a federal work relief program, the Committee on Public Administration commissioned Arthur W. Macmahon, professor of government at Columbia University, to "capture and record" the administrative evolution of this nationwide program, the greatest single administrative effort then in course of execution. It was the committee's belief that the solution of the . . .

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