The Nature of the Bureaucracy

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Many Americans today have a negative perception of the federal bureaucracy. They consider it a huge, immovable object that hinders progress and intrudes on their lives. Most Americans believe the federal bureaucracy has grown in the last few decades to an enormous size. This is a misperception. Since the 1960s, the size of the federal bureaucracy has been very stable. By contrast, however, state and local bureaucracies have grown steadily since World War II, reflecting the increasing extent to which federal programs are administered by the states.
Most Americans also feel that the federal bureaucracy is very wasteful. Whistle-blowers and reports of abuses fuel this perception of waste, which does sometimes occur. The late Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin was famous for his "Golden Fleece" awards given to departments and individuals for wasteful spending he found in the bureaucracy. Senator Proxmire's focus on spending abuses helped end many wasteful and unwise practices.
Writing in the first decades of the twentieth century, the German sociologist Max Weber theorized on governments, institutions, and bureaucracies. Weber believed that bureaucracies function to implement the policies of elected government in a rational, efficient, non-partisan manner. He felt that workers in bureaucracies develop specific expertise and technical knowledge that could not be acquired in the relatively short tenure of elected or appointed policy makers. He also felt that they possess critical knowledge about the history and practice of their agency within the larger framework of government and society and that they provide continuity from one administration to the next, which is essential for an orderly transfer of power under rule of law. Leadership may change, but the engine of government does not falter on account of having a new driver in a government that possesses a strong bureaucracy.
Weber identified the structure of a bureaucracy as a hierarchical pyramid with levels

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