political science essay chapter 14

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Chapter 14–Bureaucracy in a Democracy–Chapter Summary

Chapter 14 explores the bureaucracy. The “bureaucracy” is often used as an illustration of how poorly government can or does function, citing excessive spending, duplication and inefficiencies. At the same time, the bureaucracy maintains government services regardless of who the elected leaders are in the White House or the Congress. Although political leaders often change, the bureaucracy is a constant in America.

The chapter attempts to explain the bureaucratic state in both what it does to serve the American people as well as ways in which the bureacuratic structure might be improved.

The Chapter begins by explaining the meaning of bureacuracy and the size of the federal service. Beginning on page 561, the chapter explains what bureaucrats do within the national government and the role of the merit system for the recruitment and retention of competent civil servants.

The Chapter then provides an organizational overview of the Executive Branch bureaucracy which offers a sense of the structure and purpose for all of the departments, agencies, boards and commisions that constitute the federal government. The chapter also explains how the federal bureaucracy promotes the public welfare, national security and maintaint a growing economy. The national security section might be of special interest given America’s involvement overseas and its commitments around the world.

Whether and how the federal bureaucracy can be reformed (if it should be) is discussed beginining on page 580. This is a relevant discussion given the current dialogue about reducing the size of the federal government which means in large part the bureaucracy that has grown and evolved within the past 100 years touching the lives of every individual who lives in the United States. Many political candidates claim that they wish to reduce or eliminate parts of the federal bureaucracy, a theme that gains more notice during a presidential campaign. In theory, this seems easy and possible; actually, it is very difficult to reduce or even slow down the growth of the bureaucracy given the complexity of government and the expectations of the American people.

Reforming the executive bureaucracy is an ongoing theme in American politics. In Chapter 14, the authors, beginning on page 545, offer some suggestions about reforming and improving the bureaucracy in America.

Review these options and possibilities and examine and evaluate how these proposals would or would not reform and improve the bureaucracy, making it more (or not) efficient, effective and reduce costs to the taxpayers (and perhaps improve the image of what people perceive about the federal bureaucracy).

HINT:
Beginning on page 580, there are three options discussed: termination, devolution and privatization. You might be aware that there is a discussion in Congress about whether Medicare should be changed and perhaps made private (privatization) over the long term. This is just one illustration of what is now part of the national dialogue on these matters. Moreover, take a look at “Managing the Bureaucracy” on page 587.

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