The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic

The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic

The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic

The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic

Excerpt

This book is a polemic. I consider it a gentle polemic in that I avoid ad hominem attacks and support my position thoroughly, with evidence. But it is a polemic nonetheless.

The reason I have written a polemic, or "controversial argument," is that I have come to believe--with some intensity--that the quality of governmental administration in America has been greatly misrepresented in this country's popular commentary and academic discourse. My purpose is to counter this wrong.

Americans are rightly worried about many aspects of their governmental and political system. Even though we have the most admired democracy in the world, American politics is fraught with bitter divisions, power imbalances, fragmented interests, a superficiality born of television, and a pervasive form of corruption created by the great costs of conducting political campaigns. We experience gridlock between branches of government, an inability of elected candidates to act forcefully or even hold respect, and an absence of visionary leadership in the face of long policy agendas and an increasingly interconnected world. The most telling consequence of these problems, perhaps, is our string of outrageous federal deficits, which show that as citizens we are unwilling to give as much to the Republic as we take from it.

The point of my controversial argument is that these deep flaws of our democratic system should not keep us from appreciating one of its more remarkable attributes. This is that, despite the constant clamor, strife, and deadlock we witness in the headlines and news broadcasts, American government actually works. It works in the sense that our public administrative institutions--the departments and agencies of our national government, our fifty states, and the thousands of local jurisdictions--move ahead day by day, beyond the range of media attention for the most part, to carry out their assigned tasks with far more competence, success, and steadfastness than most of us realize.

American bureaucracy by no means works perfectly. Any large, immensely complex, and far-flung set of institutions will be riddled with indi-

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