« PreviousContinue »
Art. 12-THE SCIENCE OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION.
1. Report of the Machinery of Government Committee. H.M. Stationery Office, 1918. Cd. 9230.
2. Reports of the Royal Commission on the Civil Service. H.M. Stationery Office, 1914, etc. Cd. 7338.
3. Report of the Royal Commission on the Public Services in India. H.M. Stationery Office, 1915. Cd. 8382. 4. Report of the Committee on the Scheme of Examination for Class I of the Civil Service. H.M. Stationery Office, 1917. Cd. 8657.
5. Reports of the Committee on the Organisation and Staffing of Government Offices. H.M. Stationery Office, 1918, 1919. Cd. 61 and 62.
6. Reports of the War Cabinet. 1918, 1919. Cd. 3250 and 9005.
H.M. Stationery Office,
7. Local and Central Government. By Percy Ashley. Murray, 1906.
8. Industry and Trade. By Alfred Marshall. Macmillan, 1919.
And other works.
PRACTICE is not infrequently in advance of science; and, though Englishmen have long and wide experience of the practice of public administration, I have been unable to include in the foregoing list any systematic treatise in English on the theory of the subject as a whole. The authorities I have quoted consist for the most part of discussions, some formal and others incidental, of particular aspects of the subject; and it is mainly from such sources that the English student must at present draw his knowledge of the theory. Its study is indeed provided for in the University of London, but, so far as I can learn, it has not yet won formal recognition at Oxford or Cambridge, or in the most important universities of the Empire; and hitherto it has found no place in the principal public examinations.
The reasons for the dearth of systematic literature are not far to seek. Until the last few years the chief triumphs of British administrators have been won in distant countries and have passed almost unnoticed in the West. At home Englishmen have been familiar with the post-office, the tax-collector, and perhaps an occasional
inspector, but, as individuals, they have been very little concerned with the working of the central government; and the able men by whom it has been conducted have been under no temptation to expound the principles of their art. The position is now materially changed. For the civil administration the War meant the inception of new tasks on an unprecedented scale. The public witnessed remarkable successes, spectacular failures, and the gallant retrieval of initial blunders, while control of the food supply and constant interference with many aspects of social life brought the existence of the administration home to every individual. The Press has helped. Journalists have been called to administer, while administrators have striven to become journalists; terms of esoteric import, such as departmentalism or co-ordination, have travelled from Whitehall to Fleet Street, and have become firmly established in popular usage; the paragrapher now seeks material in the blue-book; and the whole subject has acquired an interest which it did not previously possess. The permanence of this change is still doubtful; but, whatever may be the fate of particular enterprises, it is improbable that the central administration will ever shrink to its former dimensions, while the insistent demand for nationalisation of railways, mines, and other means of production indicates the possibility of an extension of its activities so large as to compel the sustained attention of all classes of the public. It may be worth while, therefore, to offer a sketch in outline of the science underlying these activities, to state a few leading principles which appear to rest on a firm basis of experience, and to mark out some of the regions which are as yet imperfectly explored.
The scope of the science can be defined most clearly with reference to the relations between Policy and Administration. Policy decides on the objects to be aimed at, Administration puts Policy into execution, or, to speak in monosyllables, gets things done. The established science of Politics deals essentially with the methods by which public policy is formulated; and the cognate science of Public Administration begins where Politics leaves off. It is true that the dividing line between Policy and Administration is often crossed in practice; on the one hand, administrators may have a
voice in determining policy, on the other hand, statesmen may be employed also in administration; but these facts serve only to increase the need for a clear recognition of the distinction. Administrators of the English school are under no misapprehensions on this point; the tradition of perfect freedom of counsel but perfect loyalty in execution is so firmly established that it reads like a truism, and its existence is recalled only when some individual attempts to contravene it. The dual function of statesmen who are also administrators is more apt to cause confusion since it is embedded in popular language; a ministry, as the name denotes, is mainly an administrative organ, but the Ministry, or the Administration, is concerned primarily with the formulation of policy, and a Minister without portfolio is an exceedingly useful contradiction in terms. The arrangement under which Ministers formulate policy in concert and direct its execution as individuals goes far back into history; but there are some indications that it requires adjustment to meet present needs, and this complicated question will demand our attention at a later stage. For the moment it must suffice to say that the union of functions does not affect the validity of the distinction between the two processes,
The other distinction indicated by the phrase 'public' administration is based on convenience rather than scientific accuracy. Any one can distinguish between, let us say, a post-office and a joint-stock bank; but in some Countries State banks and private banks are working side by side with substantially the same methods, and then the distinction becomes almost meaningless. Railway administration again was 'private' in this country until 1914, but in many countries it must be classed as 'public,' while in others the two systems coexist. The scope of public administration depends, as we have seen, on policy; and, so long as some States undertake enterprises which others leave to private initiative, that scope cannot be defined by any general formula.
There is, however, a closely allied distinction which deserves more definite recognition than it commonly receives. Some forms of administration are concentrated, while others are diffused; and it so happens that most branches of public administration are diffused, while
private administration is still as a rule concentrated The typical business enterprise, whether it be a factor or an office, is in one place; the owner or manager is i personal touch with his principal subordinates; he ca see them at any moment, can tell them what to do, an can watch their conduct from day to day; while, if h has to employ agents at a distance, he can usually regulate their remuneration by the volume and quality of their work, and thus rely on the direct economi incentive. The activity of a typical ministry is, on the other hand, diffused over a large area; it may have to execute policy simultaneously in all the towns, or all the villages, of an extensive country; it cannot ordinarily settle remuneration by results; and consequently i depends for success on a type of organisation with which a concentrated enterprise can dispense.
The coincidence of public with diffused administration is not indeed absolute, but the exceptions help to bring out the force of the distinction. A State mint or powder factory is a concentrated unit, and its internal administration should, and usually does, conform closely to the methods of private business; a railway, whether it be State or private, requires diffused administration, and its methods in either case tend to approximate to those of the older Government departments, as may be inferred from the fact that the commonest criticisms brought against English railways under private management insisted on their 'hide-bound uniformity,' their undue centralisation, and their 'bureaucratic' habits and traditions. Examination of these and other types of activity leads to the conclusion that diffused administration requires different methods from concentrated administration; and, since most public administration is diffused, the student may for the time being confine his attention to the former, leaving the exceptional cases of concentrated public administration for consideration in connexion with the study of business enterprise.
It is possible that this distinction may become less important in the future. The aggregation of private enterprise, which at present is perhaps the most obvious tendency in economic development, may be followed by an approximation to the methods now described as 'bureaucratic,' while on the other hand the progress of
science may be expected to produce some alteration in those methods by bringing subordinates into closer touch with their superiors. For the present, however, the distinction holds good; and incidentally it furnishes a useful test of the validity of the recurring demand for 'business government.' There is no absolute reason why a man who has achieved success in concentrated administration should not prove equally successful in the more difficult branch of the art, but there is also no particular reason why he should. It may be hoped that, some day, an impartial scrutiny of the results of waradministration will throw light on the comparative value of recruitment from different sources in emergencies for which the trained staff does not suffice; but, subject to such new information, theory suggests that the State should look primarily to railways and other private activities where the system of administration is diffused.
Public administration may be either central or local, the relative importance of the two branches depending on the policy adopted by the State. The administration of a great city may be almost as intricate as that of a small country; but, speaking generally, local problems are comparatively simple, except when they involve relations with the central government, and in a first sketch it is permissible to pass them over, and concentrate attention on the larger and more complex subject. We may, therefore, proceed from the scope of the science to consider the principal units with which it is concerned. In England these are known by different names, Office, or Board, or Department as the case may be, but it is most convenient to speak simply of Ministries, a term which is rapidly gaining ground in current usage. A unit engaged in diffused administration consists of the establishment at headquarters, the local agencies, and the mechanism connecting the two; and, to begin at the base, we may notice three well-marked types of local agencies. A Ministry may operate through bodies elected locally, such as Town or County Councils (including committees of these bodies strengthened by additional members); or it may operate through its own subordinates located at convenient centres; or, lastly, it may depend upon agents appointed to represent the Administration as a whole. Much of the civilised world relies mainly on