A Historical Guide to the U. S. Government

A Historical Guide to the U. S. Government

A Historical Guide to the U. S. Government

A Historical Guide to the U. S. Government

Synopsis

Beginning with George Washington's presidential staff of three, the executive branch of the U.S. federal government has undergone a tremendous transformation. Today it is the largest institution of its kind in the world, employing over 3.1 million people, with an annual budget of over $1.5 trillion. A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government chronicles its growth from its modest beginnings to its present state. Focusing on the federal executive branch and its constituent departments, agencies, commissions, and committees, the guide offers 180 historical accounts for each of these organizational entities. It addresses Congress and the Judiciary where they interact with the executive branch--for example, reviewing congressional oversight functions, examining the control wielded by the Supreme Court on government structure, and profiling the agencies under the administrative control of Congress. It examines the social, cultural, and intellectual movements that have influenced the way America is governed, and looks closely at American bureaucracy--what it is, how it is controlled, and how new technologies have influenced it.

Excerpt

The U.S. federal government is one of the largest public institutions in the world. It is enormous in every sense of the term. It employs almost three million civilians, and its annual budget as well as its public debt are the largest in the world. It is also one of the largest owners of real estate in the United States. Size apart, it is acknowledged to be one of the most efficient governments in the world, with a civil service that is among the least elitist and authoritarian. Contrary to public perception, the United States is also one of the least governed nations in the world, with more sectors in the hands of private enterprise than is the case in most developed countries. For example, most governments own railways, airlines, mines, heavy industries, banking, broadcasting, and other public utilities and services that are outside U.S. government control or ownership.

In popular speech, the term government is used in two ways. First, it refers to the three branches of the federal government exercising together their constitutionally mandated powers. Second, and in a more restricted sense, it refers to the executive branch of the government, headed by the president and consisting of a myriad of agencies, departments, bureaus, and their branches. In this sense, the government is also referred to as the executive or the administration. A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government deals with this second definition. It therefore excludes both the judiciary and the U.S. Congress from consideration. However, because the boundaries of these three branches of government are sometimes vague and permeable, certain agencies lying within these other two branches of government are dealt with herein.

A Historical Guide to the U.S. Government presents a composite profile of the U.S.government through a history of the various departments and agencies that constitute it. Theories of public administration abound, but they do not explain why the parts work so well together (or not) unless one looks closely at the ways in which these parts have evolved during the course of the last two centuries and the political, economic, and social influences that have shaped them. A history of U.S. government is part of the history of the American people, and thus this book illustrates the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic ideas and movements that have energized the course of U.S. history. The growth of American government hews closely to the great historical cycles, with wars and depressions fueling growth and peace and prosperity restraining it. This book also explains why the U.S. government is not so monolithic and unitary as it often appears to . . .

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