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Lecture 1
Public Bureaucracy
Introduction to Public Bureaucracy
Today’s Learning Objectives
• The general overview of the field
• Sectoral distinction: public vs. private administration
Introducing public bureaucracy: The nature and characteristics
of public bureaucracy
Defining Public Administration
• Defining public administration: what government and its
partner do to formulate, implement, and evaluate, and improve
public programs.
ex. Public health, garbage collection, street cleaning, and
airport management, as well as other implementations of law
• Four frames for defining public administration (Kettl Ch 2)
a. Political: political nature
b. Legal: the implementation of the laws
c. Managerial: emphasis on managerial values
d. Occupational: one of occupational fields
Private vs. Public Administration
• The blurring of the sectors
“The public and private sectors overlap and interrelate in a
number of ways, and that this blurring and entwining of the
sectors has advanced in recent years” (Cooper, 2003, p.11;
Rainey, 2003, p.59).
• Agencies and enterprises as points on a continuum
• Can we run government like a business?
Essential Distinctions
• Distinct differences remain between public administration and
private administration.
1) Public organizations do the public’s business/
governmental affairs by administering law.
- The primary responsibility of administration is faithful
execution of laws.
Essential Distinctions
2) Public organizations have fundamentally different systems
and processes from those of private organizations
- Different legal framework: Additional constraints as result
- Different goals and processes
3) Public organizations operate in a different environment.
- Political context of public administration: separation of
politics and administration?
Public Organizations and the Law
• The fundamental distinction between public and private
organizations is their relationship to the rule of law.
• Public administration exists to implement the law/public
• Example: the federal Antideficiency Act forbids government
officials from spending money for any purpose not explicitly
authorized by law.
Goals: Efficiency vs. equity
• Conflicting views on the Administrative state:
efficiency (administrative discretion) vs.
accountability (political control over public bureaucracy)
• Government can run like a business?
• Key issue—administrative responsibility: efficient program
implementation with accountability to elected officials and the
Processes: Public vs. Private Organizations
• Public employment: Civil services
• Performance measures: Lack of any direct way of evaluating
an organization’s outputs in relation to the cost of the inputs to
make them
• Competing standards: efficiency vs. equity (Conflicting goals)
• Public scrutiny: strong external influences
• Oversight: public administrators' exposure to public scrutiny
Public Organizations and the Profit Motive
• Public and private activities can be distinguished by profit
• Private, nongovernmental organizations can be nonprofits and
advance a social agenda.
Public Administration:
The Study of Public Bureaucracy
• Defining public bureaucracy
– Public bureaucracy refers to public organizations or the
formal, rational system of relations among persons vested
with administrative authority to carry out public programs
• Negative images of public bureaucracy
– Too inefficient to accomplish much of anything
– Reluctant to change
– Abusing its power over users
Public Bureaucracy: a necessary evil?
• President Carter and President Reagan’s bureaucracy bashing
and President Clinton and President Bush’s downsizing
• Bureaucracy and red tape are necessary evils that should be
Issue 1: Everyone hates public bureaucracy?
• Waldo coined the term “administrative state” to emphasize
government’s growing size post–World War II. In what ways
has this development created a government bureaucracy that is
inefficient? Too big to control?? What are your experiences
with public bureaucracy?
Politics and Administration Dichotomy
• In the early twentieth century, scholars separated policy or the
political work of making policy from administration.
• Why? For what?
• The generation of scholars rejected this politics/administration
dichotomy because it is now obvious that administrative staffs
share in the policy formation function.
• Yet, the motivations and behaviors of policymakers and public
administrators are very different (a KEY issue for public
Politics/Administration Dichotomy
• Wilson (1887): “Administrative questions are not political questions.
Administration lies outside the proper sphere of politics.” “Although politics
sets the tasks for administration, it should not be suffered to manipulate its
• Goodnow (1900): Two distinct functions of government – politics and
administration: the exercise of all the powers and duties of government, both
general and local, which are neither judicial nor legislative; execution of
• Weber: His ideal bureaucracy would be insolated from politics and politically
• Gulick and Taylor: Administrative management school and scientific
management both emphasized a rational and scientific approach to
management that served to buttress the dichotomy.
Rejection of the Dichotomy
• Waldo (1948): Critical of a value-free and politically neutral science of
administration driven by the pursuit of efficiency. PA should be in harmony
with democracy and democratic values (democratization of bureaucracy).
• Schick (1975): The dichotomy provided for the ascendancy of the
administrative over the political (efficiency over representation, rationality
over self-interest). Politics is an essential imperative of PA—it defines the
administrative enterprise.
• Stillman (1999): The powerful postwar attacks on POSDCORB and the
dichotomy brought about an end to orthodoxy and ushered in a period of
heterodoxy (multiple approaches to PA).
• Rosenbloom (1993): Wilson’s dichotomy was untenable, yet it continues to
pervade American administrative thought for political reasons
Issue 2: Politics/administration dichotomy
• What are the various identity crises facing the scholarly study
of public administration? Does public administration
emphasize “means and not ends”; efficiency or efficiency plus
equity; administration or administration plus politics?
• Did public administration’s entrance into policy formation
drag politics into administration?