Deregulating the Public Service: Can Government Be Improved?

By John J. Diiulio Jr. | Go to book overview

2
Sources of Public Service
Overregulation

Gerald J. Garvey and John J. DiIulio Jr.

IN 1958 Paul Van Riper concluded his history of the U.S. civil service system by calling for a "representative bureaucracy," an administrative structure "in which there is a minimal distinction between the bureaucrats as a group and their administrative behavior and practices on the one hand, and the community or societal membership and its administrative behavior, practices, and expectations of government on the other."1 It is an appealing idea, and a familiar one, recalling as it does Woodrow Wilson's vision more than a century ago of a civil service that would broadly reflect a democratic citizenry.2

Ours is and always has been a representative public bureaucracy in terms of the political ideals, loyalties, and values that its members share not only with one another but with citizens generally. Surely few Americans fear the emergence of what Wilson termed a "semi-corporate body [of officials] with sympathies divorced from that of a progressive, free-spirited people."3 Alas, however, what is not representative about our public sector--and what seems to be getting less and less representative every day--are the constraints under which civil servants work. No other group of Americans must deal day in, day out with the kind of rule-bound workplace civil servants confront. Overregulation saps their morale and efficiency, in the end making self-fulfilling prophesies of the invidious judgments commonly made about appointive officials' lack of energy and imagination.4

In this chapter we survey the evolution of the federal civil service and the internal features and external forces that have converted structures the Progressives conceived in an imagery of efficiency into hidebound, unresponsive old-line agencies.5 What follows is

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