The Historical Evolution of Public Administration in the United States

The Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, and Madisonian normative models are effective methods of organizing the field of public administration (PA). The evolution of PA is a constant battle between these three basic models of bureaucracy. At times one is more influential than the other, but they always remain relevant in the study of PA. The United States Constitution did not acknowledge the needs of PA. However, these three founding fathers adopted their own models on how PA should function. The importance of their studies and contributions is essential to the progress of our government. Throughout the history of the United States, each model at different times displayed popularity in academia. The theorists that fall into these three methods are Max Weber, Frederick W. Taylor, Luther H. Gulick, Mary Parker Follett, Elton Mayo, Chester Barnard, Herbert A. Simon, Charles E. Lindblom, and Dwight Waldo. The Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, and Madisonian normative models cover vast aspects of PA, for this article the noted contributors will be of focus and relate to specific aspects of three models Classical, Behavioral, and Administration-as-Politics to show their commonalities in the study of PA.

Hamiltonian Model & Classical Approach

The classical contributors (Max Weber, Frederick W. Taylor, and Luther Gulick) share commonalities with Alexander Hamilton’s approach to PA. “Hamilton favored a strong, energetic administration to bring about his expansive vision of the future of the country” (Stillman II, 318). One classicist Luther Gulick believed in what he called an ‘integrated executive’. Fry and Raadschelders described this concept as ‘a strong executive branch, consolidation of agencies, and the adoption of more ‘businesslike’ practices in government (Fry & Raadschelders, 97). Hamilton believed strongly in the states as a ‘nation’ and wanted PA to be energetic and effective for the states as a whole. The integrated executive stems directly from Hamilton’s belief of the ‘election of responsible’ (Stillman II, 318). Electing the brightest and most capable to political power was essential for a rational and competent bureaucracy to exist. Gulick shared in this belief of the integrated executive, in that ‘professionals’ must be in control to have efficiency and rationality.

Another classical theorist with comparisons to the Hamiltonian method is Frederick W. Taylor. To describe Taylor in one word would be ‘efficiency’. Using the scientific method, Taylor focused on maximizing efficiency in the workplace. As well, the Hamiltonian method placed a strong belief in maximizing efficiency in PA. Many theorists believe more heavily on fairness but efficiency was of more importance to both Taylor and Hamilton. Furthermore, Hamilton parallels with classicists because he believed in a politics-administration dichotomy to promote efficiency. Hamilton, Gulick, and Taylor believed that by separating politics and administration, you could create greater efficiency in PA.

Jeffersonian Model & Behavioral Approach

The Jeffersonian model’s main concept is ‘the people’. Thomas Jefferson believed in accountability to the public and did not believe in power of a single authority figure. The public (Congress) should control bureaucratic institutions, not a single individual or executive (President). The belief of group control and belief that authorities need consent from the public directly correlates with behaviorists. The behaviorists (Herbert Simon, Chester Barnard, Elton Mayo, and Mary Parker Follet) preferred ‘participatory decision-making procedures’ instead of executive or single decision-making (Fry & Raadschelders, 6). Many of these theorists related group based decision-making to the work place, but the concept is equivalent to Jeffersonian model. Group-based or public decision-making gives understanding and satisfaction to employees and/or the public, according to behaviorists and Jeffersonians.

Furthermore, Jefferson’s philosophy of government power came from the bottom (the people) up (their representatives). The behaviorists approach correlates with Jefferson’s model because it ‘insists on decentralization to give more members of the organization a greater sense of control over their own destinies” (Fry & Raadschelders, 6). Decentralization in a private or public institution takes power from the executive and disperses it amongst the public or its employees. Behaviorists studied individual’s needs to feel satisfaction and a sense of worth in the workplace. This concept is similar to Jefferson’s theory in terms of government. To Jefferson, representatives should listen to the will of the people and be more of a delegate, instead of the Hamiltonian model that representatives should be trustees of the people. “…administrative power in public organizations that flows from the bottom up, not from the top down, in order to sharply limit administrative outputs and ensure public oversight.” (Stillman II, 319). Behaviorists and Jeffersonians have much in common with the notion of decentralization of executive power, giving more power to group based decision-making or ‘bottom up’ power.

Madisonian Model & Administration-as-Politics Approach

The final group left from Fry and Raadschelders organization of PA, is the administration-as-politics group (Charles Lindblom and Dwight Waldo). Both theorists demonstrate similarities with the Madisonian model. One similarity is the concept of plurality. Plurality is that reality is composed of an array of different interest groups. James Madison like Charles Lindblom believed plurality in politics was essential, but that government had to balance and control interest groups for government to function effectively. Madison believed in ‘checks and balances to mitigate the pernicious influence of factions upon governing institutions” (Stillman II, 319). Madison argued ‘factions’ or ‘interest groups’ are needed, nonetheless they must be controlled and checked by government in the process of developing policy. Madison and Lindblom both agreed on plurality through interest groups, but differed by how they develop policy. The plurality from these different interest groups emerge policies through integration or compromise. Lindblom believed in ‘integration’ and Madison believed in ‘compromise’.

The second comparison between the Madisonian model and administration-as-politics theorists is the mixture of politics in PA. Madison believed the degree of separation of politics and administration was ‘complex, mixed, and unclear, depending upon many processes’ (Stillman II, 321). Waldo and Lindblom believed similarly, that it was impossible to separate politics and administration. Unlike Hamiltonians and the classical theorists, who believed you could separate politics and administration (politics administration dichotomy) to create efficiency. The shared belief in the mixture of politics and administration between Waldo, Lindblom, and Madison is an accepted theory today.

Defining Public Administration

PA is defined in various ways because of the vast institutions it encompasses. Examining the evolution of PA through the framework of Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, and Madisonian methods, we can define the field as such: The study of effectively integrating management, policy, and politics within government institutions. The components of this definition are broken into management, policy, and politics. These three components are major parts of PA. Using a metaphor, a congressional office has three components that must work together. Certain staff work managing the office, other staff work strictly on writing policy, and finally the representative focuses on the politicking. The most effective congressional offices have a cohesion of all three components smoothly working together. The integration and cohesion of all three components combines to make the study of PA. The attempt to master integrating these three separate components is what the focus of PA teaches.

Future of Public Administration

The future of the field of PA is expanding beyond government in the 21st century. Today, non-profits around the world benefit from the study of PA. In respect to PA in terms of governance, the study’s future is moving toward a Jeffersonian model. “…a new understanding of ‘the public administrator,’ a new approach to the utilization of technology and social policy in the decision process, and to keep current the boundaries of the system, the politico-administrative system, within we work” (Gulick/Cooper, 304).With the development of e-governance, we may see a push towards more transparency and direct government. “Electronic communications technology offers a unique opportunity to involve citizens… Effective approaches to engaging citizens can be drawn from electoral politics, commerce, and the experiences of selected U.S. and international government agencies” (Mitchell, 340). The rise of e-governance may lead to group oriented decision-making and decentralization of specifically local governments. The innovations in technology will greatly affect PA and can bring the public more involvement in decision-making. This may be a move to a Jeffersonian 2.0 or behavioral 2.0 model.

Works Cited

Brian Fry, and Jos Raadschelders, Mastering Public Administration, (Washington D.C.: CQ Press, 2008).

Cooper, Phillip. Public Administration Review: The First Fifty Years. State University of New York at Albany,

Mitchell, George. From e-government to e-governance: Harnessing technology to strength democracy.

Richard Stillman II, The American Public Bureaucracy, (Syracuse: Cengage Learning, 2003).