Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy may be defined as a form of government: government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials.

Learning Objectives

Define bureaucracies and their distinctive features

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A bureaucracy is a group of specifically non-elected officials within a government or other institution that implements the rules, laws, ideas, and functions of their institution through “a system of administration marked by officials, red tape, and proliferation”.
  • As the most efficient and rational way of organizing, bureaucratization for Weber was the key part of the rational-legal authority, and furthermore, he saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalization of the Western society.
  • Weber also saw it as a threat to individual freedoms, in which increasing rationalization of human life could trap individuals in the iron cage of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control. To counteract this bureaucratic possibility, the system needs entrepreneurs and politicians.

Key Terms

  • bureaucratization: The formation of, or the conversion of something into, a bureaucracy.
  • counteract: To act in opposition to; to hinder, defeat, or frustrate, by contrary agency or influence; as, to counteract the effect of medicines; to counteract good advice.

Background

A bureaucracy is a group of specifically non-elected officials within a government or other institution that implements the rules, laws, ideas, and functions of their institution through “a system of administration marked by officials, red tape, and proliferation. ” In other words, a government administration should carry out the decisions of the legislature or democratically elected representation of a state.

Bureaucracy may also be defined as a form of government: government by many bureaus, administrators, and petty officials. A government is defined as the political direction and control exercised over the actions of its citizens. On the other hand, democracy is defined as: government by the people. In other words, supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system and not by non-elected bureaucrats.

Weberian bureaucracy

Weberian bureaucracy has its origin in the works by Max Weber (1864-1920), a notable German sociologist, political economist, and administrative scholar who contributed to the study of bureaucracy and administrative discourses and literatures during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Max Weber belongs to the Scientific School of Thought, who discussed such topics as specialization of job-scope, merit system, uniform principles, structure, and hierarchy.

Weber described many ideal types of public administration and government in his magnum opus Economy and Society (1922). His critical study of the bureaucratization of society became one of the most enduring parts of his work. It was Weber who began the studies of bureaucracy and whose works led to the popularization of this term. Many aspects of modern public administration go back to him, and a classic, hierarchically organized civil service of the Continental type is called Weberian civil service. As the most efficient and rational way of organizing, bureaucratization for Weber was the key part of the rational-legal authority, and furthermore, he saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalization of the Western society.

Weber’s ideal bureaucracy is characterized by hierarchical organization, delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity, action taken on the basis of and recorded in written rules, bureaucratic officials with expert training, rules implemented by neutral officials, and career advancement depends on technical qualifications judged by an organization, not individuals.The decisive reason for the advancement of bureaucratic organization has always been its purely technical superiority over any other form of organization.

While recognizing bureaucracy as the most efficient form of organization, and even indispensable for the modern state, Weber also saw it as a threat to individual freedoms. In his view, ongoing bureaucratization could lead to a polar night of icy darkness, in which individuals are trapped in an iron cage of bureaucratic, rule-based, rational control. To counteract this bureaucratic possibility, the system needs entrepreneurs and politicians.

The Cabinet and the Bureaucracy

The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, who are generally the heads of the federal executive departments. All Cabinet members are nominated by the president and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority. If they are approved, they are sworn in and then begin their duties. Aside from the Attorney General, and the Postmaster General when it was a Cabinet office, they all receive the title of Secretary. Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President, which means that the President may dismiss them or reappoint them (to other posts) at will.

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U.S. Department of Labor headquarters: The Frances Perkins Building located at 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Built in 1975, the modernist office building serves as headquarters of the United States Department of Labor.

Size of the Federal Bureaucracy

The size of federal bureaucracy has been steady despite the government’s claims of cutting the role of government.

Learning Objectives

Illustrate the factors that affect the size of bureaucracies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Political officials often pledge to shrink the size of federal bureaucracy while at the same time promising to enhance its efficiency. The number of civilian federal employees, at least, has not increased since the 1960s.
  • There are 16.2 million state and local government workers, meaning federal government does not need to hire approximately 4.05 million workers to carry out its policies.
  • From the 1960s to the 1990s, the number of senior executives and political appointees in federal bureaucracy quintupled.
  • The average number of layers between president and street-level bureaucrats swelled from 17 in 1960 to 32 in 1992.
  • To manage the growing federal bureaucracy, Presidents have gradually surrounded themselves with many layers of staff, who were eventually organized into the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Key Terms

  • mandate: An official or authoritative command; a judicial precept.

Background

Political officials often pledge to shrink the size of the federal bureaucracy while at the same time enhancing its efficiency. By one measure, they have succeeded: the number of civilian federal employees has not increased since the 1960s. How can politicians proclaim that the era of big government is over while providing the increase in government services that people expect? They have accomplished this by vastly expanding the number of workers owing jobs to federal money. Over 16 million full-time workers now administer federal policy, including 1.9 million federal civilian workers, 1.5 million uniformed military personnel, and 850,000 postal workers.

State and local government workers are subject to federal mandates. On average, they devote one-fourth of their work to carrying out federal directives. With 16.2 million state and local government workers, the federal government does not need to hire approximately 4.05 million workers to carry out its policies. The government also contracts with private companies to provide goods and services. The fact that the Defense Department contracted out for military interrogators and security officers in war zones did not become public knowledge until the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal broke in April 2004. The federal government directly supports 5.6 million jobs through contracts and 2.4 million jobs through grants.

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A worker makes final checks: This is an example of R&D in action.

The Thickening of Government

The reliance on mandates and contracts have resulted in fewer civil servants directly interacting with the public as much as street-level bureaucrats. Instead, federal employees have become professionals and managers. From the 1960s to the 1990s, even as the size of civil service stayed constant, the number of senior executives and political appointees quintupled. This proliferation of managers creates thickening government. The number of layers between the president and street-level bureaucrats swelled from 17 in 1960 to 32 in 1992. New administrative titles like “assistant,” “associate” and “deputy” were created to streamline and and supervise state and local workers as well as other bureacrats. As a result, much of federal bureaucracy now consists of “managers managing managers. ”

The Congress and President of the United States delegate specific authority to government agencies to regulate the complex facets of the modern American federal state. The majority of the independent agencies of the United States government are also classified as executive agencies. To manage the growing federal bureaucracy, Presidents have gradually surrounded themselves with many layers of staff, who were eventually organized into the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Within the Executive Office, the President’s innermost layer of aides (and their assistants) are located in the White House Office.

Throughout the 20th century, presidents have changed the size of bureaucracies at the federal level. Starting with the Reagan administration, conservatives have sought to downsize bureaucracies in pursuit of the “small government” tenet of the conservative movement. Small government is government which minimizes its own activities, particularly bureaucratic ” red tape. ” Red tape is excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic and hinders or prevents action or decision-making. It is usually applied to governments, corporations, and other large organizations. The “cutting of red tape” is a popular electoral and policy promise. In the United States, a number of committees have discussed and debated Red Tape Reduction Acts. The reduction in red tape, essentially means the reduction of petty government (and occasionally business) bureaucracy. Such processes are often very slow as it usually means a government employee who was fulfilling that petty function either loses some of their administrative power (and any indirect benefits that it may bestow) or a lower level office worker loses their job. Though the functions performed by that office worker are at that point deemed unproductive, government job losses are often resisted by unions hence red tape continues to keep that unproductive worker in a job.

The Growth of Bureaucracy

As modernity came into place in the Western hemisphere, the growth of bureaucratization came into place.

Learning Objectives

Identify the causes for the growth of bureaucracies over time

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • As Weber understood, particularly during the industrial revolution of the late 19th century, society was being driven by the passage of rational ideas into culture that in turn transformed society into an increasingly bureaucratic entity.
  • Bureaucracy is a complex means of managing life in social institutions that includes rules and regulations, patterns and procedures that both are designed to simplify the functioning of complex organizations.
  • Weber did believe bureaucracy was the most rational form of institutional governance, but because Weber viewed rationalization as the driving force of society, he believed bureaucracy would increase until it ruled society. Society, for Weber, would become almost synonymous with bureaucracy.

Key Terms

  • rational: Healthy or balanced intellectually; exhibiting the ability to think with reason.

Background

Weber listed several preconditions for the emergence of the bureaucracy: The growth in space and population being administered, the growth in complexity of the administrative tasks being carried out and the existence of a monetary economy – these resulted in a need for a more efficient administrative system. Development of communication and transportation technologies made more efficient administration possible (and popularly requested) and democratization and rationalization of culture resulted in demands that the new system treat everybody equally.

The growth of bureaucratization developed due to the rapid industrialization that United States was facing during the 19th century. As Weber understood, particularly during the industrial revolution of the late 19th century, society was being driven by the passage of rational ideas into culture that in turn transformed society into an increasingly bureaucratic entity.

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Black Student Welders Work in a Machine Shop Course Taught at The Chicago Opportunities Industrialization Center: Black Student Welders Work in a machine shop course taught at the Chicago opportunities industrialization center at a former grade school in the heart of the Cabrini-Green Housing Project on Chicago’s near north side.

The Growth of Bureaucratization

Bureaucracy is a type of organizational or institutional management that is, as Weber understood it, rooted in legal-rational authority. Bureaucracy is a complex means of managing life in social institutions that includes rules and regulations, patterns and procedures that both are designed to simplify the functioning of complex organizations. An example of bureaucracy would be the forms used to pay one’s income taxes – they require specific information and procedures to fill them out. Included in that form, however, are countless rules and laws the dictate what can and can’t be tied into one’s taxes. Thus, bureaucracy simplifies the process of paying one’s taxes by putting the process into a formulaic structure, but simultaneously complicates it by adding rules and regulations that govern the procedure. Weber did believe bureaucracy was the most rational form of institutional governance, but because Weber viewed rationalization as the driving force of society, he believed bureaucracy would increase until it ruled society. Society, for Weber, would become almost synonymous with bureaucracy.

Governing Bureaucratic Institutions

As society became more populated and industrialized, department and federal agencies develop to regulate the flow and integration of people of growing cities. For example, one well-known bureaucratic agency in which people deal with regularly is the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is the agency, which issues driver’s licenses and registration. In some states, the function is handled by an actual Department of Motor Vehicles (or similar agency with a different name), while in other states it is handled by subdivisions of the state’s transportation department. In Hawaii, this function is done at the county level. Some other agencies you may be familiar with include Fish & Game, Forestry, or Transportation.

The Cost of Maintaining the Government

The cost of maintaining the United States government is a lengthy budgetary process, requiring approval from many governmental committees.

Learning Objectives

Identify the institutions and offices responsible for maintaining the federal government

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a cabinet-level office, the largest within the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP).
  • The OMB ensures that agency reports, rules, testimony and proposed legislation are consistent with the President’s Budget and with Administration Policies.
  • CBO computes a current law baseline budget projection that is intended to estimate what federal spending and revenues would be in the absence of new legislation for the current fiscal year, as well as for the coming 10 fiscal years.
  • The budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriation process and provides Congress with some control over the appropriations process.
  • Authorizations for many programs have long lapsed, yet still receive appropriated amounts. Other programs that are authorized receive no funds at all. In addition, policy language, that is, legislative text changing permanent law, is included in appropriation measures.

Key Terms

  • jurisdiction: the power, right, or authority to interpret and apply the law
  • appropriation: Public funds set aside for a specific purpose.
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U.S. Office of Management and Budget Seal: The Office of Management and Budget plays a key role in preparing the president’s budget request to Congress

The Cost of Maintaining the Government

Background

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a cabinet-level office, the largest within the Executive Office of the President of the United States (EOP). The current OMB Acting Director is Jeffrey Zients.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, which was signed into law by President Warren G. Harding, established The Bureau of the Budget, OMB’s predecessor, as a part of the Department of the Treasury. As such, it was moved to the EOP in 1939, and then reorganized into OMB in 1970 during the Nixon administration.

The first OMB included Roy Ash (Head), Paul O’Neill (Assistant Director), Fred Malek (Deputy Director) and Frank Zarb (Associate Director) and two dozen others. In the 1990s, OMB was reorganized to remove the distinction between management and budgetary staff by combining those dual roles within the Resource Management Offices.

The OMB’s predominant mission is to assist the President in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and to supervise its administration in Executive Branch agencies. The OMB ensures that agency reports, rules, testimony and proposed legislation are consistent with the President’s Budget and with Administration Policies.

In addition, the OMB oversees and coordinates the Administration’s procurement, financial management, information and regulatory policies. In each of these areas, the OMB’s role is to help improve administrative management; to develop better performance measures and coordinating mechanisms, and to reduce any unnecessary burdens on the public.

United States’ Budget Process

Each year in March, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) publishes an analysis of the President’s budget proposals. (The CBO budget report and other publications can be found at the CBO’s website. )

CBO computes a current law baseline budget projection that is intended to estimate what federal spending and revenues would be in the absence of new legislation for the current fiscal year and for the coming 10 fiscal years. However, the CBO also computes a current-policy baseline, which makes assumptions about, for instance, votes on tax cut sunset provisions. The current CBO 10 year budget baseline projection grows from $3.7 trillion in 2011 to $5.7 trillion in 2021.

The Houseand Senate Budget Committees begin consideration of the President’s budget proposals in February and March. Other committees with budgetary responsibilities submit requests and estimates to the Budget committees during this time. The Budget committees each submit a budget resolution by April 1. The House and Senate each consider those budget resolutions and are expected to pass them, possibly with amendments, by April 15. Budget resolutions specify funding levels for appropriations committees and subcommittees.

Appropriations Committees, starting with allocations in the budget resolution, put together appropriations bills, which may be considered in the House after May 15. Once appropriations committees pass their bills, the House and Senate consider them. A conference committee is typically required to resolve differences between House and Senate bills. Once a conference bill has passed both chambers of Congress, it is sent to the President, who may sign the bill or veto. If he signs, the bill becomes law. Otherwise, Congress must pass another bill to avoid a shutdown of at least part of the federal government.

In recent years, Congress has not passed all of the appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year. Congress has then enacted continuing resolutions that provide for the temporary funding of government operations.

Budget Resolution

The next step is the drafting of a budget resolution. The United States House Committee on the Budget and the United States Senate Committee on the Budget are responsible for drafting budget resolutions. Following the traditional calendar, by early April both committees finalize their drafts and submit it to their respective floors for consideration and adoption.

A budget resolution, which is one form of a concurrent resolution, binds Congress, but is not a law, and so does not require the President’s signature. The budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriation process and provides Congress with some control over the appropriations process.

In general, an Authorizing Committee, through enactment of legislation, must authorize funds for Federal Government programs. Then, through subsequent acts by Congress, the Appropriations Committee of the House then appropriates budget authority. In principle, committees with jurisdiction to authorize programs make policy decisions, while the Appropriations Committees decide on funding levels, limited to a program’s authorized funding level, though the amount may be any amount less than the limit.

In practice, the separation between policy-making and funding, and the division between appropriations and authorization activities are imperfect. Authorizations for many programs have long lapsed, yet still receive appropriated amounts. Other programs that are authorized receive no funds at all. In addition, policy language, that is, legislative text changing permanent law, is included in appropriation measures.

Public and Private Bureaucracies

Public and private bureaucracies both influence each other in terms of laws and regulations because they are mutually dependent.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the interaction between public and private bureaucracies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • In the United States during the 1930’s, the typical company laws (e.g. in Delaware) did not clearly mandate such rights. Berle argued that the unaccountable company directors were likely to funnel the fruits of enterprise profits into their own pockets as well as manage in their own interests.
  • In The New Industrial State, Galbraith argued that a private- bureaucracy, a techno-structure of experts who manipulated marketing and public relations channels, planned economic decisions.
  • Private bureaucracies still have to comply with public regulations imposed by the government. In addition, private enterprises continue to influence governmental structures. Therefore, the relationship is reciprocal.

Key Terms

  • monetary policy: The process by which the government, central bank, or monetary authority manages the supply of money or trading in foreign exchange markets.

Background

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Adolf Augustus Berle: Adolf Berle, in The Modern Corporation and Private Property, argued that the separation of control of companies from the investors who were meant to own them endangered the American economy and led to a unequal distribution of wealth.

The Great Depression was a time of significant upheaval in the United States. One of the most original contributions to understanding what had gone wrong came from a Harvard University lawyer, named Adolf Berle (1895–1971). Berle, who like John Maynard Keynes had resigned from his diplomatic job at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, was deeply disillusioned by the Versailles Treaty. In his book with Gardiner C. Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property (1932), he detailed the evolution in the contemporary economy of big business. Berle argued that the individuals who controlled big firms should be held accountable. Directors of companies are held accountable by the shareholders of companies. At times, they are not held accountable because of rules found in company law statutes. This might include the right to elect and fire the management, requirements for regular general meetings, accounting standards, and so on.

In the United States during the 1930’s, the typical company laws (e.g. in Delaware) did not clearly mandate such rights. Berle argued that the unaccountable directors of companies were therefore apt to funnel the fruits of enterprise profits into their own pockets, as well as manage in their own interests. They were able to do this because the majority of shareholders in big public companies were single individuals, with scant means of communication. Quite simply, they divided and conquered. Berle served in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration through the depression. He was also a key member of the so-called “Brain trust” that developed many of the New Deal policies. In 1967, Berle and Means issued a revised edition of their work, in which the preface added a new dimension. It was not only the separation of company directors from the owners as shareholders at stake. They posed the question of what the corporate structure was really meant to achieve.

The Interaction with Public and Private Bureaucracies

After World War II, John Kenneth Galbraith (1908–2006) became one of the standard bearers for pro-active government and liberal-democrat politics. In The Affluent Society (1958), Galbraith urged voters reaching a certain material wealth begin to vote against the common good. He argued that the “conventional wisdom” of the conservative consensus was not enough to solve the problems of social inequality. In an age of big business, he argued, that it is unrealistic to think of markets of the classical kind. They set prices and use advertising to create artificial demand for their own products, which distorts people’s real preferences. Consumer preferences actually come to reflect those of corporations—a “dependence effect”—and the economy as a whole is geared towards irrational goals.

In The New Industrial State, Galbraith argued that a private-bureaucracy, a techno-structure of experts who manipulated marketing and public relations channels, planned economic decisions. This hierarchy is self-serving, profits are no longer the prime motivator, and even managers are not in control. Since they are the new planners, corporations detest risk. They require steady economy and stable markets. They recruit governments to serve their interests with fiscaland monetary policy. An example would be adhering to monetarist policies that enrich moneylenders in the city through increases in interest rates. While the goals of an affluent society and complicit government serve the irrational techno-structure, public space is simultaneously impoverished. Galbraith paints the picture of stepping from penthouse villas onto unpaved streets, from landscaped gardens to unkempt public parks. In Economics and the Public Purpose (1973) Galbraith advocates a “new socialism” as the solution. He promotes nationalizing military production and public services such as health care as well as introducing disciplined salary and price controls to reduce inequality.

Today, the formation of private bureaucracies within the private corporate entities has created their own regulations and practices. Its organizational structure can be compared to that of a public bureaucracy. However, private bureaucracies still have to comply with public regulations imposed by the government. In addition, private enterprises continue to influence governmental structures. Therefore, the relationship is reciprocal.

Models of Bureaucracy

Bureaucracies have different type of models, depending upon their governmental organizational structure.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the different types of authority according to Max Weber and how these relate to bureaucracy

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Through rationalization, Weber understood the individual cost-benefit calculation and the wider, bureaucratic structure of organizations, which in general was the opposite of understanding reality through mystery and magic (disenchantment).
  • As the most efficient and rational way of organizing, Weber viewed bureaucratization as the key part of the rational-legal authority.
  • The Weberian characteristics of bureaucracy are clear, defined roles and responsibilities, a hierarchical structure and respect for merit.
  • The acquisition model of bureaucracy can incite succession of roles and power between different bureaucratic departments. Monopolistic bureaucracies do not provide room for competition within each bureaucratic department.

Key Terms

  • acquisition: The act or process of acquiring.

Background

Many scholars have described rationalization and the question of individual freedom as the main theme of Weber’s work. Through rationalization, Weber understood the individual cost-benefit calculation and the wider, bureaucratic structure of organizations, which generally was the opposite of understanding reality through mystery and magic (disenchantment). The fate of our time is characterized by rationalization, intellectualization and, above all, the “disenchantment of the world. ”

What Weber depicted was not only the secularization of Western culture, but also the development of modern societies from the viewpoint of rationalization. New structures of society were marked by two intermeshing systems that had taken shape around the organizational cores of capitalist enterprise and bureaucratic state apparatus. Weber understood this process as the institutionalization of purposive-rational economic and administrative action. To the degree that everyday life was affected by cultural and societal rationalization, traditional forms of life differentiated primarily according to one’s trade were dissolved.

Models of Bureaucracy

Many aspects of modern public administration go back to Weber. Weberian civil service is hierarchically organized and viewed as the most efficient and rational way of organizing. Bureaucratization for Weber was the key part of the rational-legal authority. He saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalization of Western society.

Weberian characteristics of bureaucracy are clear, defined roles and responsibilities, a hierarchical structure and respect for merit. The acquisition model of bureaucracy, meanwhile, can incite succession of roles and power between different bureaucratic departments. At the same time, monopolistic bureaucracy does not provide room for competition within each bureaucratic department.

Weberian Bureaucracy

Weber described many ideal types of public administration and government in his masterpiece Economy and Society (1922). His critical study of the bureaucratisation of society became one of the most enduring parts of his work. It was Weber who began the studies of bureaucracy and whose works led to the popularisation of this term. Many aspects of modern public administration go back to him and a classic, hierarchically organised civil service of the Continental type is called “Weberian civil service”. [98] As the most efficient and rational way of organising, bureaucratisation for Weber was the key part of the rational-legal authority and furthermore, he saw it as the key process in the ongoing rationalisation of the Western society.

Weber listed several preconditions for the emergence of the bureaucracy: The growth in space and population being administered, the growth in complexity of the administrative tasks being carried out and the existence of a monetary economy – these resulted in a need for a more efficient administrative system. [99] Development of communication and transportation technologies made more efficient administration possible (and popularly requested) and democratisation and rationalisation of culture resulted in demands that the new system treat everybody equally.

Weber’s ideal bureaucracy is characterised by hierarchical organisation, by delineated lines of authority in a fixed area of activity, by action taken (and recorded) on the basis of written rules, by bureaucratic officials needing expert training, by rules being implemented neutrally and by career advancement depending on technical qualifications judged by organisations, not by individuals

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United States Defense Attaché System Seal: The Department of Defense is allocated the highest level of budgetary resources among all Federal agencies, amounting to more than one half of the annual Federal discretionary budget.