Bureaucracy, simply defined can be called the “red tape” of the American Political system. Also, this red tape can further be explained as the life blood of the very structure. It is the dominant institution, the institution that epitomizes modernity. Bureaucracy is an organizational form of public administration, the very structure of the operating units of government. Bureaucracy takes a very special role in public administration. Bureaucracy has to be competent in order to be able to carry out the laws, and essentially; it can only be competent when its employees are competent, and competently led to do so.
Of the most famous political persons responsible for the making of bureaucracy, and its effects on society would be Max Weber, the German sociologist who set the course of the field in foundations of Administration and Politics. Weber established there were three different types of authority which helped to set the stage of public administration and helped to direct the forms of government which exist today. The three types of authority that dominate the governmental and societal settings of the present are traditional, charismatic, and legal rational. The third type of authority is the type which we are most familiar with.
Legal rational authority dominates the modern world, and can easily be thought of as a closed system of regulations and rules forming a bureaucracy. This authority is purely devoted to impersonal and functional purposes, thus giving the perfect stage for bureaucracy, where all focuses are impersonal and functional alone. While bureaucracy is based on the legal rational form of authority, there are five key elements which are continually present in a bureaucracy. First, there is a division of labor and there is functional specialization. Labor is divided by skills and authority, and the responsibility of each position is defined by law and administrative regulation. Second, each position job and office is independent of its occupant.
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The job is permanent and may be filled by any number of different individuals. The two outcomes of this are that the ongoing nature of bureaucracy is important, and that human labor must become interchangeable. Third, authority becomes more centralized and hierarchical. There is a clear cut chain of commands, where at each stage there are superiors and subordinates. The ideal bureaucracy would be shaped like a triangle.
Next, the bureaucracy would be structured by rules and procedures. All employees would interact within accordance of the legal definitions of their jobs. Finally, for the sake of organization, there is maintenance of files and other records. Bureaucracy has the capacity to coordinate large scale administrative tasks with superior efficiency. This form of government can be seen as extremely effective and efficient. A bureaucracy concentrates on technical experience and acts predictably to accomplish its goals in a timely and organized manor.
Bureaucracy can also be explained as “a powerful institution of the 1 st order, for the one who controls the bureaucratic apparatus.” There is also an ongoing tension which has been established between the bureaucracy and the politics of am organization. Bureaucrats are permanent factors, which operate within a defined, closed set of rules, while politicians are temporary members of the establishment which are forced to operate under the various rules and regulations of the public sector. As bureaucracy has an air of superior effectiveness, there are also underlying negative points to each of the positive points it is capable of providing, A bureaucracy will eventually monopolize any establishment which it has been set out to govern. Also, the inert specialization makes it almost impossible to work without. A bureaucracy is also known to be particularly ambivalent toward any form of democracy. The size and form which bureaucracies take makes them extremely resistant to change.
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Acting autocratically is an also well known trait of the traditional bureaucracy. Woodrow Wilson, past President of the United States wished for a “neutral” bureaucracy, which would be allowed to perform business within the government. Wilson believed that the public, and the administration which governed them should be separated. He also believed that bureaucracy (administration) needed to be removed from the “common” political life of the people. “Bureaucracy can exist only where the whole service of the state is removed from the common political life of the people, its chief as well as its rank and file. Its motives, objectives, policy, standards must be bureaucratic.
While this would be effective in an “ideal” bureaucracy, it proved to be unrealistic in the working aspects of the bureaucracy. Furthermore, bureaucracies are essential parts of every governmental function, a prevalent example of a non-competent bureaucracy can be seen in the Savings and Loan scandal of 1989. The inability of the public administrators to regulate and control the establishments proved to be a fatal loss to the American economy. Under the Regan Administration, many cuts and changes were made in the structure of government to free up big business, deregulate various industries and open the economy.
The Office of Management and Budget, agent in charge of federal funding began denying requests for examiners and officers who would have been responsible for the regulation and strengthening of the S&L’s in an attempt to deregulate. By denying these requests, it was placing the bureaucracy in charge of the S&L’s in an incompetent position. It would be too small and overworked; making it virtually impossible to keep up with ever-increasing banking industry practices. While the examiners who were left to investigate the Loan establishments were too inexperienced and insufficiently trained, bank practices began to slide downward, making frequent inappropriate transactions, leading to the largest and most prominent baking industry blunder in America’s history.
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The events which led up to the downfall of the Savings and Loan industry can be seen as a direct result of budget cuts, staff cuts, and under funding of the bureaucracies created to carry out the law. As can be seen from the S&L debacle, bureaucracies are now an essential and much needed part of our American governmental structure. Bureaucracy, and bureaucrats are often times looked at as the inhibitors of our actions, and they are perceived as a necessary struggle. And finally, as long as the American Public continues to act in a manor which is not consistently honest and wise; there is, and will continue to be a large role for bureaucracies in public administration.