3 Articles Critique
Is Bureaucracy Really the Issue?
Explaining the American attitude towards bureaucracy is not difficult, as a large majority of the public uses these organizations to explain what is wrong with government. Do We Need a New Model For Government? (Balutis, 2012) proposes that bureaucracy needs to be improved for the 21st Century, and provides some recommendations for what this new structure would look like. In addition, A New Case for Bureaucracy: Can We Do More with More? (Rosenbloom, 2016), takes a negative view of bureaucracy, with an emphasis on reducing the size and scope of government, and providing reasons for why America needs to do this. On the other side, In Defense of Bureaucracy (O’Toole and Meier, 2010), concludes that the expansive administrative structure that exists in the bureaucracy is an aid to the functioning of these systems. Furthermore, the fact that government has some slack in the system can be a benefit during times of shock (Pg. 357), which is when we need bureaucracy, such as during times of economic distress or during a time of war.
Finally, Stillman’s work on bureaucracy correlates well with each of these articles. Both the positives and the negatives of bureaucracy will be considered, and possible solutions presented by the authors. While not always in accord, a general theme concerning bureaucracy is that some sort of failure, either design or another, affects the ability to serve the functions which they were built to ensure. The issues of an aging population and antiquated infrastructure are fundamental negatives when discussing bureaucracy. The positives of well crafted administrative policies, and the ability to continue to provide crucial services during times of budgetary shocks, are also well observed in the literature.
Balutis: Do We Need a New Model for Government? (2012)
Balutis commences with his argument by explaining the demographic change in age. Much of the workforce is prepared to retire, leading, perhaps, to a crisis in human resources. However, the author argues that this is an opportunity for bureaucracy to become leaner, with a 21st Century workforce to confront new challenges to the country (2012, Pg. 66). Moving on, he continues to describe many of the challenges facing bureaucracy which Stillman discusses in The American Bureaucracy: The Core of Modern Government (2004, pg. 256-272). These are technological and workforce changes due to greater access to more advanced IT services, as Balutis describes, or the workforce with the changing of the guard as the baby boomers retire, and the demands these influences have and continue to extoll on the bureaucracy.
Technology is an ever-changing variable for business as it is for bureaucracy. Describing the current system as antiquated, built over the past 70 years and much of the infrastructure dating to that time, there is also the issue of similarly antiquated rules and policies for how bureaucracy is the function, with many foundational civil service laws and rules dating back decades (2012, pg. 66-68). These issues amount to the need to fundamentally reform bureaucracy for Balutis, to move away from the 20th Century. Going on to describe some of how these changes should take place, he looks towards implementing the creation of new positions to oversee bureaucrats and their actions, as well as reforms to IT technology, capacity, training, and oversite to make this area of concern more efficient.
While I do not necessarily agree with Balutis conclusions, I do agree that the changing landscape is an issue which much be addressed as soon as possible to avoid a larger decline in the future in the ability of government to provide necessary services. The steps he proscribes to address these challenges are positive ones as well, such as transforming the IT component of bureaucracy to bring it more up to date. Also, the creation of new administrative oversight bodies may be beneficial as well, and will be referenced later again in the article by O’Toole and Meier (2010), where the large administrative components of bureaucracy actually help to improve key performance metrics.
Rosenbloom: A New Case for Bureaucracy: Can We Do More with More? (2016)
Rosenbloom critiques a book written by John J. Dilulio Jr., Bring Back the Bureaucrats: Why More Federal Workers Will Lead to Better (and Smaller!) Government (2014), bringing up many nuances about the Federal bureaucracy that are perhaps not as widely known or spoken about due to the media’s focus on stories that sell, not necessarily those that are the most important. Rosenbloom looks at the idea of “government by proxy” (Rosenbloom, 2016 and Dilulio, 2014). What both authors mean by this, is the bureaucracy that has developed into a subversive force on Congress. Also, due to the outsourcing of labor, it is not entirely known how much debt these contracted organizations are incurring, or the number of workers these employ, which would add to the total number of Federal workers if recognized as part of that workforce.
Rosenbloom continues to examine the arguments that Dilulio makes, speaking to the large and unknown nature of the contractor and subcontractor government proxies, lax oversight of contracted organizations, takes public accountability away from those who are elected to uphold the Constitution and craft legislation, the Houses of Congress (2016). It is in the bureaucracy’s best interest to have an ever-increasing government in size, scope, power, and reach. This in turn influences demand for services in an upward direction, thus enabling the bureaucracy to continue to exist and grow, which is the main purpose of any entity, whether the government, or the private sector.
To solve these longstanding issues, Rosenbloom looks to Dilulio again, examining some of the solutions which he proscribes. While it may seem counterintuitive, Dilulio makes the case for hiring a million workers by 2035, however Rosenbloom rightly points out that there have been subsequent changes in technology which can today limit this number. But both view an increase as necessary in the short-term, as the proportion of federal administrative personal has been higher in the past than it is today, which could help to transform the bureaucracy to a greater degree (2016). Other solutions are to cut back on for-profit government contractors, encourage states to become more self-dependent and the federal government less dependent on state-level bureaucratic institutions, as well as to bring the Presidency back to its founding functions as the “energetic executive” (2016, 2014) that Alexander Hamilton envisioned.
Rosenbloom, and the author which he critiques Dilulio, have a negative view of bureaucracy, or perhaps the current iterations at the Federal level. Referring to the contractual organizations which handle much of the government’s implementation, as “Leviathan by Proxy” (2014, 2016), both authors show their dislike for the current state of bureaucracy. While I do not agree entirely with the proscribed solution of empowering the executive branch, others, such as diminishing the power contracted organizations have over government spending.
O’Toole and Meier: In Defense of Bureaucracy. (2010)
In this article, authors O’Toole an Meier examine bureaucracy by crafting a study to analyze the effect of budgetary shocks, performance, and how the government is structured to absorb the impact of budget decreases. From their research, the conclusion that bureaucracy introduces slack in the administrative ranks to ensure continuity in the organization’s functions. During times where an organization does not experience budgetary shock, the need for administrators is increased due to the ability for the organization to hire additional workers to fulfill the missions of the bureaucracy in question. (2010)
To explain why this is, the authors conduct many statistical analyses to examine performance from an administrative and overall position. While admitted that the study was too large to be entirely certain of the results, O’Toole and Meier witnessed many trends on the data collected and used for these analyses. These trends are that a large, skilled administration proves to be beneficial to the organizations ability to function in times of distress, as well as good. (2010) Employing the bureaucracy at the Federal level is another positive because having a central location reduces overhead and the number of administrators necessary, instead of 50 different administrative bodies. Lastly, their research supports the market-orientated (2010) model that many bureaucracies have adopted.
Stillman (2004) would argue more along the lines of the constitutional principles, such as states rights and sovereignty. On the other hand, Stillman notes that the ever-expanding nature of the bureaucracy was due to demand from the people for services, or in response to national emergencies such as economic, environmental, military, or others. Furthermore, the administrative component of bureaucracy is not as much of an issue as is the legislative body that is tasked with the creation of bureaucracy and conducting oversight of these organizations. Both the authors of the article and Stillman are in accord with the failures of the Houses of Congress to fully and effectively execute their oversight functions.
I agree with this article the most, due to the fact that much of what is concluded is logical, that greater administrative ability would lead to an organization being better managed for example. Also, the business model which is referenced is another positive attribute that bureaucracy has adopted, as historically government has been less responsive and less efficient than a business is or can be. While bureaucracy has not transformed enough to minimize inefficiencies to the largest extent possible, O’Toole and Meier show how bureaucracy is designed to weather economic storms as well as political shifts which may result in a decrease in funding.
To conclude, bureaucracy is a complex creature, with many characterizations attributed to it by both the public, and scholars. Generally of a negative sort, these characterizations have merit, but so do the positive. Balutis looks to the issues in society which may be negatively affecting bureaucracy, such as an aging population and aging IT infrastructure, to try to improve these organizations. Rosenboom studies how Congress ineffectively oversees bureaucracy, and O’Toole and Meier conduct analyses to determine if many of the negatives concerning bureaucracy are true. While none expansive in their descriptions of the negatives or the solutions to these, all provide critical research on modern bureaucracy in America, and provide a picture of how bureaucracy could become more effective and efficient in their operations.
Balutis, A. P. (2012). Do We Need a New Model for Government? Public Manager, 41(4), 66-69.
Dilulio, J. J. Jr., Bring Back the Bureaucrats: Why More Federal Workers Will Lead to Better (and Smaller!) Government (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2014) . ISBN: 9781599474670
O’Toole, J. J., & Meier, K. J. (2010). In Defense of Bureaucracy. Public Management Review, 12(3), 341-361. doi:10.1080/14719030903286599
Rosenbloom, D. H. (2016). A New Case for Bureaucracy: Can We Do More with More?. Public Administration Review, 76(1), 198-200. doi:10.1111/puar.12499
Stillman, R. J .(2004). “The American bureaucracy: the core of modern government” (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. (2004). ISBN: 978-0-534-61420-1