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Bureaucracy research paper

September 20, 2013 | By More

Bureaucracy term paper:

TUP Team provides a bureaucracy research paper as a sample to educate students about the case in the United States.

Modern states, organizations and corporations all owe their existence, growth in size and expansion to bureaucracy, a term which on the one hand represents part and parcel of modernization and development, and on the other hand, represents a major problem and issue to be dealt with today and in the coming decades.

Bureaucracy by definition is a rational relationship within human groups. It is a form of organization that is based on hierarchy and whose intended aim was to establish a hierarchical flow of authority, command, responsibility and accountability within a system.

During the past four hundred years, bureaucracy has developed very quickly, thus laying grounds for modern states, especially in the United States and Europe. Today, however, bureaucracy has become a burden and a major problem for many countries, particularly for major countries whose bureaucracies are considered to be the largest all over the world. By far, the US has the largest bureaucracy in the world. The earliest serious scientific concern with bureaucracy was displayed by the famous sociologist Max Weber who died in 1920. Today, however, thousands of studies are conducted on this issue, particularly in the US where bureaucracy is facing serious problems leading to its decline.

One of the most important causes leading to the decline of bureaucracy in the US is the increasing politicization of bureaucracy. Since the late 1970s, the number of politicians entering the public service has increased dramatically. While this has contributed to infusing American bureaucracy with fresh blood, it has also undermined the structure of this bureaucracy. Politicians inside bureaucracy are considered to be amateurs because they lack solid experience, sufficient skills and most importantly, the necessary commitment. The majority of these politicians consider public service as a ladder onto which they climb in order to achieve their political goals, none of which are related to public service or good.

In this sense, pubic service is no longer a career for these politicians, but rather, a means to an end. Over the years, this has undermined the effectiveness and nature of bureaucracy and public service in the US in a number of ways. First of all, it has contributed to a severe decline in morality and morale in public service. The decline in morality is evidently due to the lack of commitment as well as to the increased reliance on public service as an opportunity rather than a career. On the other hand, the collapse of morale is due to the increasing influence of politicians inside the bureaucracy accompanied with a decline in the role and representation of genuine and committed public servants who take public service as a serious career.

Secondly, as the number of politicians in the public service increased, the number of professionals decreased. This has definitely resulted in a decline in the quality of services provided by the bureaucracy in America, but more importantly, it has minimized the influence of professionals in the formulation of public policy. Accordingly, over the years, this has negatively impacted efficiency, leading to a fast increase in costs but at the same time, a decline in quality and output. In the early 1980s, politically appointed public servants accounted to less than 30% of the total public servants but today, this percentage has exceeded 35% which means that the number of operating professionals inside the American bureaucracy has decreased dramatically.

Bureaucracy research: 

Politicization inside the American bureaucracy is not only limited to the appointment and division of personnel, but also to the operation of this bureaucracy. The past twenty years have witnessed an overwhelming increase in the reliance of elected officials on TV and other media in order to pass their messages. It is noticed, however, that the majority of these messages are politically oriented, usually towards re-election or towards achieving a higher political status within the bureaucracy. Accordingly, this movement of politicization has also been accompanied by a fast increase in the number of promises to the public. At the same time, however, this growth of promises has been accompanied by relatively declining resources. Accordingly, this gives priority to politically-oriented goals at the expense of development plans and objectives. This is not to mention the fact that on many occasions, elected officials actually make too many promises that they cannot meet, hence damaging the image of public service and bureaucracy.

Despite the many disadvantages that may be cited in any bureaucracy, bureaucracies have always been known for the high degree of accountability enjoyed within their structures and relations. However, in the case of bureaucracy in the US, the situation is now different. During the 1980s, and due to budgetary pressures, the contracting system was widely used. By virtue of this system, a subsystem of the bureaucracy simply allows a private organization or agency to contract a certain service, thus relieving the public of the financial burdens that are involved in undertaking complete projects. Thus, by virtue of the contracting system, costs were reduced effectively, but the results turned out to be dissatisfactory especially with respect to accountability.

The contracting system was also influenced by politicization in American bureaucracy, and accordingly, contractors were given privileges and primacy based on their political relations within the bureaucracy. As a result, quality and ethical considerations were not considered to be of great import in contracting.

In addition to this, many contracts turned out to be disasters with respect to cost reduction as these ended up with excessive costs that made justifying the contracting system almost impossible in many situations.

So far, the contracting system has been the cause of a major wave of legal problems for American bureaucracy. Legal suits initiated by public agencies and departments against contractors have become very common, and even though the financial output of these suits can make up for some of the damages incurred, it is obvious that this going to be a very ineffective and inefficient procedure that will cost the American bureaucracy billions of dollars over the years.

What is evident is that due to the contracting system, accountability in the American bureaucracy is now lost between contractors and legal courts. Apparently, this draws a shadow on bureaucracy and its ability to carry out its operations at a satisfactory level to the public. It also raises question marks about the necessity of bureaucracy if private contractors are actually carrying out what the bureaucracy is supposed to be doing.

Legal problems do not stop at the contracting system. The growth of the American bureaucracy has stipulated a fast increase in the number of laws, acts and regulations organizing and checking bureaucracy in the US. While this was supposed to maintain accountability and enhance responsibility, it has turned out to be a major source of inflexibility in the system. The problem is that these strict regulations have not actually maintained the ethical system inside the American bureaucracy. On the contrary, unethical behaviors and conducts have increased dramatically, and this is primarily due to the flaws in the hiring system in the first place, not in the necessity of stricter and harsher regulations.

While all these problems bubble up in the American bureaucracy, the size of public administration in the US has increased dramatically in recent years. This has happened at a time when consecutive governments have been alarmed by the excessive budgetary expenses of bureaucracy. Yet, the problem resembles a continuously growing cancer for a simple reason, namely politics.

There is a serious lack of unwillingness to reduce bureaucracy mainly because it can be very damaging to the political interests of senior public officials. This is especially true as a large number of these officials are politically appointed or elected, hence, they are in one way or another related to interest groups and political forces. Therefore, effective reduction of the bureaucracy is coming at the expense of professionals who are being eliminated to leave space for politicians in administration.

Developing bureaucracy in the US requires resolving the problems discussed earlier. The most pressing problem is politicization. However, the nature of this problem implies that there is no one simple solution for it. To start with, politicization is a wave that has overwhelmed the entire American administration. It is a process that has been taking place for decades now, and therefore, immediate solutions are next to impossible.

Reducing politicization inside American bureaucracy does not only require a sincere willingness among officials belonging to the upper levels of the hierarchy, but also an active involvement in changing the nature of this bureaucracy. Gradualism is certainly required in this respect to avoid a lack of stability during the change. The core of the solution to this problem is increasing the number of professionals in civil service at the expense of politicians. A reform movement that will implement such a change will be unattractive to elected officials whose ability to benefit their careers from public service will be limited. A possible support could be gained by enacting administrative regulations that separate between politics and civil service, but even such a step could be impossible to implement since public administration is considered to be one of the key steps for developing political leaderships in the US. However, this should not be considered a dilemma since the primary concern here is the remedy of public administration.

By virtue of this plan, it also becomes obvious that the recruiting and hiring procedures in public administration should also be changed. Emphasis should be made on professional career basis rather than on political career basis. This will require more independence and freedom for the hiring and recruiting departments, that is, an isolation from the influence and impact of politicians and interest groups.

On the procedural level, the contracting system should also be reformed in order to maintain an acceptable implementation of accountability and responsibility in administration. Again, however, politicization stands as an obstacle. Nevertheless, depoliticization at this level can be much easier through stricter legal enactment. By imposing strict standards on contracting procedures and systems, political impact and influence can be reduced significantly, especially if this is accompanied by strict sanctions on the officials and the interest groups involved in winning contracts in unfair and undeserved manners.

Failure or success of these procedures and solutions will heavily depend on the ethical standards inside the bureaucracy. Pay is not considered to be a problem in the case of the American bureaucracy, especially that American civil servants and officials are among the highest paid officials in the world. The problem is more related to individual conduct and political interests. The challenge at this level is in reforming the ethical system of conduct and behavior within public administration. This challenge is in one way or another related to politicization because it would be impossible to expect higher ethical standards in effect if political competition and aspiration remain the leading and ruling grounds on which public administration in the US is developing.

The problems of bureaucracy in the US are not different from those in any other country. Corruption is evident even though it might be different in magnitude and type. Corruption is not necessarily represented by the flow of illegal funds to influence public officials. It can also be represented by the decline of ethical standards and the rise of politicization in such a way that the standards and quality of civil service become secondary in importance. Lack of commitment to service and aspiration to political career rather than administrative career cannot be purged immediately. They require years of reform and must involve a serious shift in priorities. Politics, corrupting as it is, has gotten the best of bureaucracy in the US, and so far as this situation remains pressing, there can be little hope for a better bureaucracy in the US. A century ago, Max Weber was trying to find solutions for the problems of bureaucracy and he may have reached that point in time where he believed that bureaucracy is a problem in itself. This is certainly true, but it is also an inevitable evil. However, it remains in the ability of states to control their bureaucracies, to curb their bubbling problems and at the same time, to keep them checked and reformed to prevent them from becoming inflexible agents of trouble-making in their respective systems. Bureaucracy after was intended to be a means of organizing administration, not a pit-hole of trouble.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Rosen, Bernard. (1982). Holding Government Bureaucracies Accountable.

New York: Praeger Scientific Publishers.

Stillman II, Richard. (1966). The American Bureaucracy. Chicago: Nelson-

Hall Publishers.

Weiss, Carol & Barton, Allen. (1980). Making Bureaucracies Work.

London: Sage Publications.

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