Wilson, Taylor, Weber &
DE V E LOPI NG T HE ORT HODOX Y –
A R ES PONSE TO T HE S P OI L S SYSTEM
An Industrializing America
•In America’s first century, we saw growing industrialization, new immigration flows,
social conflict, a Civil War, growing class conflict, and increased calls for gender
•If the Whig Party argued for limited majoritarianism, the America of our late 19th
century was an arena faced with growing demands for mass participation.
•Industrialization required a modern administrative state capable of encouraging our
country’s forward movement.
•Science and technology were not just the drivers of economic growth but also the
management of such growth.
•The spread of science and its importance were viewed as also having a potential
applied relevance to the American state and its administration.
•Science could be used recreate our institutional apparatuses for our modern era, to
create a science of democracy, and by extension, a science of our administration.
Early 1800s to mid-1800s in
•President Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican Party, president from
1801 to 1809) viewed civil service control as an important issue. Upon his
election, he viewed America’s nascent civil service as dominated by
members of the Federalist Party. Concerned about how such Federalist
influence might hamper his presidency, he began to replace Federalist civil
servants with his party loyalists.
•President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) believed that civil servant jobs
could be learned quickly and without loss of government efficiency.
Jackson switched out most of the presidential-level appointments and by
the end of his second term, approximately 10% of the broader civil service.
He institute a system of office rotation in which civil servants would be
changed out every four years.
The result: The “spoils system” and the question, “to the victor [of
elections], go the spoils”?
Early 1800s to mid-1800s in
By the end of the Civil War, there were 53,000 civil servants across seven Departments.
According to Manley Case (1986, p. 286)(quote below), the civil service was built around
The “spoils system” or
“To the victor, go the spoils”?
1. What is the impact of a “spoils system” on government efficiency? Effectiveness?
2. James Madison famously warned about the “tyranny of the majority” (Federalist
Papers) in which the wealth of the minority is governed by this majority. Our
separation of powers were created to check any attempt by one actor to overrun
another. But what happens when the “minority” (wealthy, white, property-owning
men) dominate not only the legislative branch but also the executive branch?
3. What happens when elected governments change out all bureaucratic actors with
each election? How does this impact national efforts?
The Federalist Papers (1787), No. 51 (my highlight, below)
“There are, moreover, two considerations particularly applicable to the federal system of America, which place that
system in a very interesting point of view. First. In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is
submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of
the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power
surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each
subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people.
The different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself. Second. It
is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard
one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different
classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.
There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent
of the majority that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate
descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not
impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority.
This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the
unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both
parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it
will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests,
and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested
combinations of the majority.”
Pendleton Act (1883)
•This Act required that federal civil servant hiring should be based on
merit, not political affiliation.
•Assassination of President James A. Garfield (shot on 2 July 1881, died
19 September 1881)
•Shot by Charles Guiteau. Guiteau was upset that President Garfield
had not appointed him to a diplomatic post for his (Guiteau’s) selfperceived efforts in electing President Garfield to office in 1880.
Woodrow Wilson (1887)
•Wilson, Woodrow (1887). “The Study of Administration,” Political
Science Quarterly, 2(2): 197-222.
•Oft-considered a foundational article within American public
administration. He is a student of an early Johns Hopkins University
tradition in political science. Wilson earned a PhD in Political Science
from Johns Hopkins University (1886).
•His 1887 article was written when Wilson was a Professor at the newlycreated Bryn Mawr College for Women. He was appointed to the
Princeton faculty in 1890 and became its 13th University President in
1902. He was later tapped for New Jersey Governor (starting 1910) and
won the US Presidency in 1912. He served as our 28th President from
1913 to 1921.
Woodrow Wilson (1887)
•In his 1887 article, Wilson argued that our constitutional framework and democratic
philosophy allowed for an expanded administration. Mirroring his contemporaries,
his focus was largely on municipal government.
•Key to his argument was his foundational observation: politics is separable from
administration. He saw public administration as a field of business.
•This goes beyond Congress or the Executive but rather this idea encourages the
creation of a well-trained, neutral, and competent (“skilled, economic
•Administrators must become a professional and trained servants of our
governmental needs. This does not imply such civil servants are removed from
public opinion or that such administrators shall create a “domineering, illiberal
officialdom”. Instead, our administrators must be “sensitive to public opinion” and
create a “bureaucracy… where the whole service of the state is removed from the
common political life of the people, its chiefs as well as its rank and file. Its motives,
its objects, its policy, its standards, must be bureaucratic”. If administered in such a
way, we would not find a “chief of department” who “served the people” without
“impudent exclusiveness and arbitrariness” (Wilson, 1887).
Woodrow Wilson (1887)
• Not only did this view respond to a previously heretofore focus on the federal
government but a perception that in America’s first century, appointments to the civil
service, nepotism, and corruption were failing to provide the mechanisms that our
• In particular, Wilson wrote: “Though democrats by long inheritance and repeated choice,
we are still rather crude democrats. Old as democracy is, its organization on a basis of
modern ideas and conditions is still an unaccomplished work. The democratic state has
yet to be equipped for carrying those enormous burdens of administration which the
needs of this industrial and trading age are so fast accumulating” (1887)
• The popular sovereignty and equalities framed within our US Constitution (based on our
“consent of the governed”) required an expertise-driven administrator to frame
democracy’s empowered “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish” citizens (Wilson,
• We cannot trade our prior sovereign (as a single person, often foolish) for a multi-person
democratically-elected sovereign guided by similar (from the people) foolishness.
• The students of Wilson and his contemporaries became part of the ‘Progressive’
movement of the 1910s and early 1920s.
(late 1910s and 1920s)
•Delegation of power to administrative experts.
•More broadly, encouraged creation of the Federal Reserve, a national income tax,
the direct election of Senators (17th Amendment), among other achievements.
•In the Federalist Papers, James Madison had worried about the tyranny of the
majority and in particular, the wealth of the minority governed by this majority. Our
separation of powers were created to both encourage our government but also
check any attempt by one actor to overrun another.
•By the 1910s and 1920s, from a Progressive view, they saw a new tyranny but this
time it was a tyranny of the minority. This was our time of railroad barons, child
labor, political and criminal machines, perception of legislative corruption, and a
few monopolists gathering vast wealth.
The Progressive Solution: More direct democracy.
◦ Progressives hoped direct democracy (rather than representative democracy) would reduce
special interest power and link policy with public opinion.
◦ Emergent tools included the referendum, direct primaries, and ballot initiatives.
•Emanates out of Frederick Taylor’s 1911 book: The Principles of Scientific
•Introduced notion of “scientific management”. Notion that individual time
can be scientifically-designed to maximize output. Scientific management
will create good will, hard work and ingenuity regularly rather than
irregularly. Such patterns will create harmony rather than discord.
Four Principles of Scientific Management
Deliberate knowledge gathering. Transform knowledge into recordable
data and later reducible into rules, laws, and/or mathematical formulas.
Continual evaluation of the worker using scientific selection.
Bring science and scientifically-trained workers together.
Equal division of work between managers and their workers.
•For the reformer interested in public administration, Taylorism was the
adopted progeny of the Progressive movement.
•When applied to public administration, Taylorism used its emergent
“government by science” to frame political science and public
administration as a science. This emergent scientism linked with social
control (of the people) theories and a distrust of citizen and worker
•If the progressives’ expressed concern about a special interest buyout of
Congress and a democratically-elected minority tyranny, then scientific
management became the project by which not only would technicallytrained civil servants be a professional elites capable of governing but
might actually encourage the “survival of the American democracy” via its
“use of scientific knowledge as a technology of governance” (Lee, 1995,
• The U.S. Forest Service of the 1920s was this idealization of this period in
American history… as the ideal model for scientific management within our US
“Theory of Organization”
•Luther Gulick argued in this essay about the appropriateness of
dividing work. In this way, the “division of work and integrated
organization are the bootstraps by which mankind lifts itself in the
process of civilization” (Gulick, 1937, p. 44).
•Coordination can be achieved through organization, a span of control,
one master, and technical efficiency.
•To organize the executive, POSDCORB must be followed: planning,
organization, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting, and
budgeting. If followed, then they may also be applied to the units and
departments below and within the executive.
•President of the Institute of Public Administration from 1921 to 1962
and its Chairman until 1982.
“High Noon” (of the Orthodoxy) and the
Brownlow Committee (1937)
Called the “President’s Committee on Administrative Management”
(1937) or the “Brownlow Committee”, this group was created by FDR to
reorganize an increasingly important (and expanded) executive branch.
Its three members were Louis Brownlow, Luther Gulick, and Charles
This Committee suggested that the American government was not up to
the task of modern government. Efficiency principles were to be
considered first and foremost in the management of government. If
government was reorganized, it would encourage economy and reduce
duplication. The impact is not only a better-managed state but to make
the American democracy and its state an “effective instrument for
carrying out the will of the nations”.
“Brownlow Committee” (1937)
Canons of Efficiency:
◦ The establishment of a responsible and effective chief executive as the center of energy,
direction, and administrative management;
◦ The systematic organization of all activities in the hands of qualified personnel under the
direction of the chief executive;
◦ Moreover, to aid him in this, the establishment of appropriate management and staff
◦ Provision for planning, a complete fiscal system, and means for holding the executive
accountable for this program.
Desire to reorganize existing Departments, reorganizing the government’s fiscal and accounting
system, and as importantly, create an Executive Office of the President so that the President
can have staff to assist him in managerial aspects of being President, of managing the executive
agencies, and to interact with the press and the public.
This period from Taylor to Brownlow is labelled a period of administrative management in
American public administration history. It is also considered a “high noon” of this assumed
orthodoxy or potentiality of separating politics from administration.
Wrote about an “ideal-type” bureaucracy:
•Official business is conducted on a continuous basis
•Official business is conduct with strict accordance to rules. Characterized
by an elaborate hierarchical divisions of labour directed by explicit rules
impersonally applied. Reliable following of the rules is one of the highest
values in a bureaucracy. This helps create leveling effects in society and to
lessen economic differences. Criteria should be impersonal. Impersonal
application of general rules, both to the outsider the organization with and
its own staff.
•Every official’s responsibility and authority are part of a vertical hierarchy
of authority, with respective rights of supervision and appeal.
•The means of coercion for a bureaucrat are strictly limited and conditions
of their use strictly defined.
Wrote about an “ideal-type” bureaucracy:
•Staffed by full-time, life-time, professionals but by people who do not “own” their
job. Offices cannot be appropriated by their incumbents, i.e. inherited, sold, etc…
The idea is that even they don’t “own” the job, the job is for life because it only by
working in the public sector for life that one learns everything that has to be
coordinated for a government to run. Its not that they have to stay there for life
because their particular task is hard but instead, the coordination is the hardest to
learn. Thus, if the employee leaves early, there is a potential loss of efficiency. They
are to live off a salary, not from income derived directly from the performance of
their job, in other words, bureaucrats cannot charge fees for themselves (and if
done, fees belong to government) or to accept gifts. The ideal is that if the official
has any source of income apart from a salary he will not reliably follow the rules.
•The bureaucrat does not own the “means of administration” i.e. the computers,
furniture, files, etc. But instead are accountable for their use of these resources.
•Official business is conducted on the basis of written documents (i.e. as proof, as
proof of equality)
A bureaucratic official:
•Is personally free and appointed to his position on the basis of conduct
•Exercises the authority delegated to him in accordance with
impersonal rules, and his loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful
execution of his official duties
•His appointment and job placement are dependent upon his technical
•His administrative work is a full-time occupation
•His work is rewarded by a regular salary and prospects of advancement
in a lifetime career.
Bureaucracy as a rational type of authority
•Why was bureaucracy a rational type of authority? Bureaucracy was
understood as the most efficient way of implementing the law, the best
way to carefully apply ideas to the citizens. This is because the law is
rational, obedience is rational, and the rule of law is rational.
•Weber saw bureaucracy’s rationality as superior to other forms of
organization namely that of the charismatic leader in which people
simply follow that leader (at the extreme, this might be a cult) or
traditional domination like a King or Queen.
• Weber did not see bureaucracy as inefficient, in fact, its rationality is
what made it efficient. By forcing the same rule on everyone, it is more
efficient that simply changing it for each person
Dwight Waldo &
• Waldo is a giant in modern American public administration. His 1946 book
(Administrative State) was based on his Ph.D. dissertation. Its ideas are required reading
for any intellectual entrant to America’s public administration history.
• In short, he is critical of the prior “gospel of efficiency”
• He saw a dichotomy of politics and administration called the “public-administration”
• Dichotomy: “division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups”
that is, groups that cannot be meshed together.
is mutually exclusive from
A Waldo Critique of the
•Orthodoxy belief in its universality of though and application were false.
•Progressivism and efficiency were the mechanisms by which “citizenship”
was re-evaluated. It was a cross-fertilization of the industrial revolution
into government service and would serve as the “wrapper” for apparent
final world on public administration’s “sovereign facts” (Waldo, 18-21).
•He looks at prior efforts in American administrative history and questions
their core beliefs.
•For example, he looks at an earlier period in American administrative
history focused on personnel management. He observed that while
efficiency may have been the expert reformer’s tool, these experts had an
underlying belief in a “cleansing and promotion of democracy” that
negated their assumption of an apolitical movement (Waldo, 28).
A Waldo Critique of the
•Observed that Taylor and his followers claim science is “inapplicable when
applied to values, to decision and policy” while paradoxically, scholars and
administrators wanted to extend scientific analysis as “logically and
practically imperative” (Waldo, 57) for public administrators.
• He argues that only “pseudo-scientists” try and “derive moral principles from the findings of science”
•Preoccupied with achieving the “good life”. As described by Gulick, this
good life “for government as well as individuals, consists in balance and
proportion – ‘nothing too much’ and nothing too little. A city… must have
these things in proportion” (Waldo, 68).
•Saw utilitarians concerned with the “greatest happiness for the greatest
number,” the legal realists and utilitarians trying to rid American
democracy of “higher law”, and the pragmatists were too focused on
experience as the backdrop to decision-making. For Waldo, he saw all
three as too based on empiricism.
A Waldo Critique of the
•On the question of who should govern, the orthodoxy believed in a
“governing class” of experts as the only one with the right to rule (Waldo,
90-91) and thus, are key to American democracy (Waldo, 91).
•If some had argued that Executive Branch and the administrative apparatus
were not joined but separated, Waldo disagreed. If the politicsadministration dichotomy suggests that politics can be separated from
administration and administrative power was truly separable from politics,
then we’d essentially need a fourth branch.
•But this is not what Waldo saw. He saw a need for “heterodoxy” in which
“the disagreement is not generally with politics-administration itself; only
with the spirit of rigid separatism” (Waldo, 121). Instead, what must
inserted into our discussions becomes the role of discretion.
•Moreover what makes a “good organization” is not one which gains
legitimacy by fitting into a behavioral norm but rather through fitting into
its own mould.
A Waldo Critique of the
•For Waldo, political values cannot be separated from organizational
theory since “administrative study… is at its heart normative” (Waldo,
187). Thus “it is not ‘scientific’ to try to force upon a subject matter a
method not suitable to it; that instead the nature of the subject matter
must define the world” (author’s original emphasis, Waldo, p. 191). In
other words, context matters.
•Waldo dislikes the orthodoxy argument that inefficiency within a
democracy is “a cardinal sin”.
•Waldo believes that efficiency is inseparable from values (Waldo, 195)
and that efficiency must be “socially and humanly interpreted” and
that its opposite, inefficiency, must be given more than one definition
Brownlow, L. (1937). President′s Committee on Administrative Management.
Administrative Management in the Government of the United States, 3-15.
Case, H. Manley. "Federal Employee Job Rights: The Pendleton Act of 1883 to the
Civil Service Reform Act of 1978." Howard LJ 29 (1986): 283.
Gulick, L. (2015 (1937)). Notes on the Theory of Organization in Classics of
organization theory, J.M. Shafritz, J.S. Ott, Y.S. Jang (Eds). Cengage Learning.
Lee, E.W.Y. (1995). Political science, public administration, and the rise of the
American administrative state. Public Administration Review, 538-546.
Madison, J., & Jay, J. (2009). The Federalist Papers: Alexander Hamilton, James
Madison and John Jay. Palgrave Macmillan.
Taylor, F. (1911). The Principles of Scientific Management. Dover Publications.
Waldo, D. (1984 (1948)). The Administrative State (2nd ed.). New York: Ronald Press.
Wilson, W. (1887). “The Study of Administration,” Political Science Quarterly, 2(2):
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