Bureaucracies can become self-justifying systems, and replicate ineffective administrative behaviors long after they have ceased to work. The Winter Commission Report (1993) was an attempt to provide advice to states and the federal government on the subject of civil service reform. Both bureaucratic as well as political reforms were deemed necessary to 'clean up' the civil service system and render it more effective in addressing the needs of the public. For some states such as Georgia, this has meant eliminating the traditional examination-based hierarchies and systems in which employees had virtual guaranteed employment for life, and instead employing administrators 'at will' (Nigro & Kellough 2008: 550). Merit-based systems have fallen out of favor and there has been greater deference to the independent opinions of managers to decide which employees can provide superior service to the public.
However, the Winter Commission's view of the civil service system was far from dismissive and it stressed the need to increase the budgets for training. Rather than shifting to at-will employment, instead it stressed the need for promoting based upon skills vs. tenure (Nigro & Kellough 2008: 551). However, given the fact that so many state budgets are increasingly strapped, the idea of increasing training budgets by three percent is likely to be an impossible dream (Fehr 2008). Hostility is also growing amongst the general public about what is seen as the exorbitant benefits of state employees, relative to those of employees in the public sector (Barrow 2010). Even if it does not result in improved services, the trend towards more at-will employment in civil service is likely inevitable.
Barro, Josh. (2010). The teacher pension nightmare. Forbes. Retrieved:
Policy feedback behavior suggests that citizen outcomes are not simply the results of individual behavior, but are institutional products. Performance reviews and information about the functionality of different systems is essential, given that policies create real and lasting patterns that set the tone of citizen engagement. An excellent example of this cited by Wichowsky and Moynihan (2008) is that of Social Security, which has caused elderly Americans to be extremely socially involved, as a way of protecting their rights within the political system. Policy feedback has often been a subject of great debate amongst both liberals and conservatives, as liberals will frequently allege that tax policies may favor the wealthy and hurt the poor, while conservatives often say liberal policies such as welfare are damaging the social institution of the family and the American work ethic. The authors suggest a program assessment rating tool (PART) to gain a sense of both the intended and unintended citizen outcomes that can result from government policies.
The concept of generating positive citizen outcomes through government policies often reflects the idea that social programs should create bonds of trust between participants. Once again, Social Security is an excellent example of such a program. Persons pay into the program as they work when they are young. They expect to profit from paying into the system later on, as they age. One alternative philosophy of citizen engagement is that governments should actively promote an even more expansive notion of citizen participation through public policy (Wichowsky & Moynihan 2008: 909). According to theorists such as Robert Putnam, reinforcing trust creates social capital that generates a more caring, closely bonded and well-functioning society. Nations such as Sweden with strong welfare systems that force interaction with state entities tend to have more lasting bonds of social trust than more individualistic societies that do not (Wichowsky & Moynihan 2008: 910). Social trust is a resource that can cement a society together in ways both subtle and obvious.
However, the concept of creating social trust through setting specific citizen outcome targets is not without problems. For example, setting guidelines and limitations about who can benefit from specific programs can create perceptions of who are 'deserving' and 'non-deserving' recipients and create social divides, rather than social unity between groups, as was seen in the case of welfare reform in the United States.
Putnam, Robert. (2000). Bowling alone. Simon & Schuster.
Wichowsky, Amber, and Moynihan, Donald P. (2008). Measuring how administration shapes
citizenship: A policy feedback perspective on performance management. Public Administration Review, 68(5), 908-920. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1586897221).
Creating a workforce that truly resembles America has long been an aspiration of many politicians and citizens alike. It is often thought that it is especially incumbent upon members involved in public service to ensure that the face of government truly resembles America. Affirmative action has been portrayed as a positive way of achieving these goals, but to its opponents affirmative action is merely a form of reverse discrimination and is particularly inappropriate for representative governments that attempt to protect civil rights to engage in (Selden 2006: 911). Poll results are conflicted regarding the support of the public on affirmative action, and the courts have limited the abilities of institutions, particularly educational institutions to use it as a social leveler (Selden 2006: 912-913). However, it remains widely practiced within the government and in many private organizations. The government also favors private enterprises that practice affirmative action when dispensing contracts.
Affirmative action programs involving government contractors have been substantive in their results, in terms of increasing the numbers of women and minorities in these positions, but elevating women and minorities to leadership positions has proven to be more elusive and difficult to engineer with affirmative action (Selden 2006: 912-915). However, overall the effects of affirmative action seem to be positive -- private section firms that use the policy seem to recruit more extensively from a wide array of candidates, and favor objective vs. subjective measuring standards of competency, which suggests that it can encourage greater rigor on the part of employers in being self-conscious of prejudice (Selden 2006: 912-916). Affirmative action may not be a panacea, and there is a suggestion that more work is needed to encourage shattering an existing glass ceiling, but overall the article suggests that its effects are positive.
Fullinwider, Robert. (2011). Affirmative action. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Selden, S. (2006, November). A solution in search of a problem? Discrimination, affirmative action, and the new public service. 66(6), 911-923. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
In contrast to the federal government, I cannot spend money at a deficit. When I wish to buy an item, I must make sure that I have enough money to purchase the item, or pay the bill on my credit card at the end of the month. Of course, I can simply charge items on a credit card and ignore the need to pay it. But I am well aware of the fact that I must pay this sum eventually, or ruin my credit at a young age. And some debt, like student loans, I cannot erase.
In contrast, the federal government can borrow money in the long-term to pay for its expenses. It often has pressing needs, such as the demand for promised social services that it cannot prioritize over holding to a balanced budget. While there is pressure from some political quarters to limit the amount the federal government borrows, regardless of the amount of money available to the government, there are certain expectations in terms of providing for defense spending entitlement programs, and other areas of spending that requires the government to prioritize immediate needs over how much money it is accruing and it can defer these payments a much longer time than an ordinary citizen.
This ability of the federal government to borrow for the long-term is not necessarily a bad thing, however. Unlike an ordinary citizen, who has a fixed amount of time and a more fixed range of income he or she can earn, the federal government has more creative possibilities. By generating jobs to stimulate the economy through temporary deficit spending, the federal government can dramatically increase the earning potential of citizens and thus its ability to earn money through collecting taxes generated by prosperity in the long run. The federal government should spend more on generating jobs through spending than it does in the present, rather than focus on defense spending (Death and taxes, 2012). And it has not always run at a deficit -- during times of prosperity such as during the 1990s, there were budget surpluses. (Budget explorer, 2012).
Budget explorer. (2012). Retrieved:
Death and taxes. (2012). Retrieved:
Monitoring the effectiveness of government programs can be challenging. However, Van Ryzin (2005 et al.) suggests that citizen monitoring can often provide an effective method of assessing the competence of government programs (Van Ryzin et al. 2005: 295). The article specifically deployed a method of assessing government programs using citizen…