Government » The American Bureaucracy » Bureaucracy and the Evolution of Public Administration

Summary of the Evolution of Public Administration


During the post-Jacksonian era of the nineteenth century, the common charge against the bureaucracy was that it was overly political and corrupt. This changed in the 1880s as the United States began to create a modern civil service. The civil service grew once again in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration as he expanded government programs to combat the effects of the Great Depression. The most recent criticisms of the federal bureaucracy, notably under Ronald Reagan, emerged following the second great expansion of the federal government under Lyndon B Johnson in the 1960s.

Practice Questions

1. Briefly explain the underlying reason for the emergence of the spoils system.


bureaucracy: an administrative group of nonelected officials charged with carrying out functions connected to a series of policies and programs

bureaucrats: the civil servants or political appointees who fill nonelected positions in government and make up the bureaucracy

civil servants: the individuals who fill nonelected positions in government and make up the bureaucracy; also known as bureaucrats

merit system: a system of filling civil service positions by using competitive examinations to value experience and competence over political loyalties

patronage: the use of government positions to reward individuals for their political support

public administration: the implementation of public policy as well as the academic study that prepares civil servants to work in government

spoils system: a system that rewards political loyalties or party support during elections with bureaucratic appointments after victory

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