fact that bureaucracy is necessary is indisputable. Even government on
the smallest of scales must administer its programs and implement its policies.
The primary dilemma of bureaucracy, however, is an extension of the dilemma
of popular governance -- striking the right balance between providing order
and protecting liberty. When a bureaucracy is given authority, it is given
that authority to establish order, usually in the form of peace, safety,
and economic security or stability. When a government bureaucracy exercises
authority, the liberty of the people is necessarily diminished. But how
much should liberty be diminished and for what purposes or objectives?
(Photo at Left: Federal agency buildings in Washington,
D.C. Source: Library of Congress.)
A second and related dilemma faced by bureaucracy is the conflict between
authority and accountability. If efficiency were the only objective of
administration, bureaucracies would be given extensive power and discretion.
However, in a political system in which the powers of government are derived
from the people, the government must be accountable to the people for how
it exercises those powers. On the one hand, then, managerial and administrative
effectiveness demands that bureaucracies and bureaucrats be armed with
the tools, authority and flexibility they need to accomplish the tasks
they are assigned. However, popular governance demands that bureaucracies
and bureaucrats be held accountable for their actions. These objectives
are not always compatible. Time spent responding to congressional inquiries
and investigations or holding public hearings satisfy the demands of accountability,
but they directly diminish the capacity of bureaucracies to accomplish
their allotted responsibilities.
Reasearch and Study Helps
Think About It
Is the bureaucracy accountable? To whom or what is it accountable?
Which of the bureaucratic reforms discussed in this chapter do you think
would lead to the biggest improvement in the administration of governmental
Applying What You've Learned
Visit the web
sites of several federal government agencies. What kind
of information is made available on these sites? Are there obvious ways
for citizens to communicate with bureaucrats via the Internet? If so, investigate
on of the programs administered by a federal agency and write to someone
at the agency about it.