Topics: Public administration, Policy analysis, Policy Pages: 21 (5977 words) Published: September 29, 2014


When people think about government, they think of elected officials. The attentive public knows these officials who live in the spotlight but not the public administrators who make governing possible; it generally gives them little thought unless it is to criticize “government bureaucrats.” Yet we are in contact with public administration almost from the moment of birth, when registration requirements are met, and our earthly remains cannot be disposed of without final administrative certification. Our experiences with public administrators have become so extensive that our society may be labeled the “administered society”. Various institutions are involved in public administration.

Much of the policy-making activities of public administration is done by large, specialized governmental agencies (micro-administration). Some of them are mostly involved with policy formulation, for example, the Parliament or Congress. But to implement their decisions public administration also requires numerous profit and nonprofit agencies, banks and hospitals, district and city governments (macro-administration). Thus, public administration may be defined as a complex political process involving the authoritative implementation of legitimated policy choices. Public administration is not as showy as other kinds of politics. Much of its work is quiet, small scale, and specialized. Part of the administrative process is even kept secret. The anonymity of much public administration raises fears that government policies are made by people who are not accountable to citizens. Many fear that these so-called faceless bureaucrats subvert the intensions of elected officials. Others see administrators as mere cogs in the machinery of government. But whether in the negative or positive sense, public administration is policy making. And whether close to the centers of power or at the street level in local agencies, public administrators are policy makers. They are the translators and tailors of government. If the elected officials are visible to the public, public administrators are the anonymous specialists. But without their knowledge, diligence, and creativity, government would be ineffective and inefficient.


Large-scale administrative organization has existed from early times. The ancient empires of Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, China, and later the Holy Roman Empire as well as recent colonial empires of Britain, Spain, Russia, Portugal, and France – they all organized and maintained political rule over wide areas and large populations by the use of quite a sophisticated administrative apparatus and more or less skilled administrative functionaries. The personal nature of that rule was very great. Everything depended on the emperor. The emperor in turn had to rely on the personal loyalty of his subordinates, who maintained themselves by the personal support from their underlings, down to rank-and file personnel on the fringes of the empire. The emperor carried an enormous work load reading or listening to petitions, policy arguments, judicial claims, appeals for favors, and the like in an attempt to keep the vast imperial machine functioning. It was a system of favoritism and patronage. In a system based on personal preferment, a change of emperor disrupted the entire arrangements of government. Those who had been in favor might now be out of favor. Weak rulers followed strong rulers, foolish monarchs succeeded wise monarchs – but all were dependent on the army, which supplied the continuity that enabled the empire to endure so long. In the absence of institutional, bureaucratic procedures, government moved from stability to near anarchy and back again. Modern administrative system is based on objective norms (such as laws, rules and regulations) rather than on favoritism It is a system of offices rather than officers. Loyalty is owed first of all to the state...
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