The Bureaucracy - The Bureaucracy The Size and Power of the...

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The Bureaucracy The Size and Power of the Bureaucracy A bureaucracy is a large organization composed of appointed officials in which authority is divided among several managers. Bureaucracy is an obvious feature of all modern societies, but American governmental bureaucracy is distinctive in three ways. First, political authority over the bureaucracy is shared among several institutions. Second, most federal agencies share their functions with agencies of state and local government. Finally, America's adversary culture means that the actions of bureaucrats are often fought in court. The Constitution makes little mention of the bureaucracy, other than to give the president power to appoint various sorts of officials. In 1789 Congress gave the president power to remove officials without congressional assent, but the question of who (if anyone) would actually control the bureaucracy has been hotly contested throughout American history. Throughout most of American history, patronage was the chief means of determining who would hold federal jobs. Congress was the dominant institution, the president usually accommodated congressional preferences in appointments, and thus appointments were made to reward local supporters of Congress members or to build up local party organizations. By the middle of the nineteenth century there were a lot of federal jobs: from 1816 to 1861 the number of federal employees increased eightfold, with the Post Office accounting for most of this increase. The Civil War and postwar period saw the creation of many additional bureaus. A strong commitment to laissez-faire meant that these agencies did not for the most part regulate, but rather served specialized constituencies such as farmers or veterans. The bureaucracy as we know it today is the product of the New Deal (whose programs gave broad but vaguely defined powers to agencies) and of World War 11 (during which the government made use of the vastly increased revenues the income tax allowed). The Supreme Court has interceded to restrict political patronage on constitutional grounds. The first step was taken in Elrod v. Burns (1976) in which the Court noted that important First Amendment interests in the protection of free speech must be taken into consideration in patronage firings. According to the majority, the public's interest in the effective implementation of policy "can be fully satisfied by limiting patronage dismissals to policy- making positions." Four years later, in Branti v. Finkel, the Supreme Court elaborated by explaining that "the question is whether the hiring authority can demonstrate that party affiliation is an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of the office." As such, the mere fact that a bureaucrat occupied a policy-making position no longer constituted the ultimate factor in a patronage firing. This line of cases was brought to conclusion with Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois (1990), when the Court extended the Branti standard to
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This note was uploaded on 12/14/2009 for the course GOVT 32 taught by Professor Lind during the Spring '09 term at École Normale Supérieure.

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The Bureaucracy - The Bureaucracy The Size and Power of the...

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