Friday, August 29, 2014

America in Decay

 
 
"Politics is a domain of final ends, subject to democratic contestation, but Administration is a realm of implementation, which could be studied empirically and subjected to scientific analysis.."
Max Weber
 
 
The issue of Civic Service is one of the infinitive legacies of Mankind.. This is not resulted from the continuous debates and arguments on efficiency and best practices, but due to the unspoken contradiction between the mighty tendencies: Anarchy & Order..
 


America in Decay: The Source of Political Dysfunction
By Francis Fukuyama
September/October 2014 Issue
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141729/francis-fukuyama/america-in-decay?cid=nlc-foreign_affairs_this_week-082814-america_in_decay_5-082814&sp_mid=46845006&sp_rid=YWRpbHN1ZEBob3RtYWlsLmNvbQS2
 

The creation of the U.S. Forest Service at the turn of the twentieth century was the premier example of American state building during the Progressive Era. Prior to the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883, public offices in the United States had been allocated by political parties on the basis of patronage. The Forest Service, in contrast, was the prototype of a new model of merit-based bureaucracy. It was staffed with university-educated agronomists and foresters chosen on the basis of competence and technical expertise, and its defining struggle was the successful effort by its initial leader, Gifford Pinchot, to secure bureaucratic autonomy and escape routine interference by Congress. At the time, the idea that forestry professionals, rather than politicians, should manage public lands and handle the department’s staffing was revolutionary, but it was vindicated by the service’s impressive performance. Several major academic studies have treated its early decades as a classic case of successful public administration.

Today, however, many regard the Forest Service as a highly dysfunctional bureaucracy performing an outmoded mission with the wrong tools. It is still staffed by professional foresters, many highly dedicated to the agency’s mission, but it has lost a great deal of the autonomy it won under Pinchot. It operates under multiple and often contradictory mandates from Congress and the courts and costs taxpayers a substantial amount of money while achieving questionable aims. The service’s internal decision-making system is often gridlocked, and the high degree of staff morale and cohesion that Pinchot worked so hard to foster has been lost. These days, books are written arguing that the Forest Service ought to be abolished altogether. If the Forest Service’s creation exemplified the development of the modern American state, its decline exemplifies that state’s decay.

 
"The problem with scientific management is that even the most qualified scientists of the day occasionally get things wrong, and sometimes in a big way.."
Francis Fukuyama

The story of the U.S. Forest Service is not an isolated case but representative of a broader trend of political decay; public administration specialists have documented a steady deterioration in the overall quality of American government for more than a generation. In many ways, the U.S. bureaucracy has moved away from the Weberian ideal of an energetic and efficient organization staffed by people chosen for their ability and technical knowledge. The system as a whole is less merit-based: rather than coming from top schools, 45 percent of recent new hires to the federal service are veterans, as mandated by Congress. And a number of surveys of the federal work force paint a depressing picture. According to the scholar Paul Light, “Federal employees appear to be more motivated by compensation than mission, ensnared in careers that cannot compete with business and nonprofits, troubled by the lack of resources to do their jobs, dissatisfied with the rewards for a job well done and the lack of consequences for a job done poorly, and unwilling to trust their own organizations.”

In his classic work Political Order in Changing Societies, the political scientist Samuel Huntington used the term “political decay” to explain political instability in many newly independent countries after World War II. Huntington argued that socioeconomic modernization caused problems for traditional political orders, leading to the mobilization of new social groups whose participation could not be accommodated by existing political institutions. Political decay was caused by the inability of institutions to adapt to changing circumstances. Decay was thus in many ways a condition of political development: the old had to break down in order to make way for the new. But the transitions could be extremely chaotic and violent, and there was no guarantee that the old political institutions would continuously and peacefully adapt to new conditions.

The very stability of institutions, however, is also the source of political decay. Institutions are created to meet the demands of specific circumstances, but then circumstances change and institutions fail to adapt. One reason is cognitive: people develop mental models of how the world works and tend to stick to them, even in the face of contradictory evidence. Another reason is group interest: institutions create favored classes of insiders who develop a stake in the status quo and resist pressures to reform.

But Madisonian democracy frequently fails to perform as advertised. Elite insiders typically have superior access to power and information, which they use to protect their interests. Ordinary voters will not get angry at a corrupt politician if they don’t know that money is being stolen in the first place. Cognitive rigidities or beliefs may also prevent social groups from mobilizing in their own interests. For example, in the United States, many working-class voters support candidates promising to lower taxes on the wealthy, despite the fact that such tax cuts will arguably deprive them of important government services.


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http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/141729/francis-fukuyama/america-in-decay?cid=nlc-foreign_affairs_this_week-082814-america_in_decay_5-082814&sp_mid=46845006&sp_rid=YWRpbHN1ZEBob3RtYWlsLmNvbQS2

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