Public administration is the implementation of government policy and also an academic discipline that studies this implementation and prepares civil servants for working in the public service. The term can also refer to public administration theory.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- I present, for what it is worth, and may prove to be worth, the following bill of axioms or aphorisms on public administration, as fitting this important occasion.
- The continuous and fairly efficient discharge of certain functions by government, central and local, is a necessary condition for the existence of any great society.
- As a society becomes more complicated, as its division of labor ramifies more widely, as its commerce extends, as technology takes the place of handicrafts and local self-sufficiency, the functions of government increase in number and in their vital relationships to the fortunes of society and individuals.
- Any government in such a complicated society, consequently any such society itself, is strong in proportion to its capacity to administer the functions that are brought into being.
- Legislation respecting these functions, difficult as it is, is relatively easy as compared with the enforcement of legislation, that is, the effective discharge of these functions in their most minute ramifications and for the public welfare.
- When a form of government, such as ours, provides for legal changes, by the process of discussion and open decision, to fit social changes, then effective and wise administration becomes the central prerequisite for the perdurance of government and society — to use a metaphor, becomes a foundation of government as a going concern.
- Unless the members of an administrative system are drawn from various classes and regions, unless careers are open in it to talents, unless the way is prepared by an appropriate scheme of general education, unless public officials are subjected to internal and external criticism of a constructive nature, then the public personnel will become a bureaucracy dangerous to society and to popular government.
- Unless, as David Lilienthal has recently pointed out in an address on the Tennessee Valley Authority, an administrative system is so constructed and operated as to keep alive local and individual responsibilities, it is likely to destroy the basic well-springs of activity, hope, and enthusiasm necessary to popular government and to the following of a democratic civilization.
- Liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.
- John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity (1877)
- Public administration is a process or a theory, not merely an accumulation of detailed facts. It is Verwaltungslehre. The object of administrative study should be to discover, first, what government can properly and successfully do, and secondly, how it can do these proper things with the utmost possible efficiency and at the least possible cost both of money and of energy.
- Marshall E. Dimock, "The Study of Administration." American Political Science Review 31.01 (1937): p. 29
G - L
- The study of public administration must include its ecology. "Ecology," states the Webster Dictionary, "is the mutual relations, collectively, between organisms and their environment." J. W. Bews points out that "the word itself is derived from the Greek oikos a house or home, the same root word as occurs in economy and economics. Economics is a subject with which ecology has much in common, but ecology is much wider. It deals with all the inter-relationships of living organisms and their environment." Some social scientists have been returning to the use of the term, chiefly employed by the biologist and botanist, especially under the stimulus of studies of anthropologists, sociologists, and pioneers who defy easy classification, such as the late Sir Patrick Geddes in Britain.
- John Merriman Gaus (1947), Reflections on public administration, p. 6
- Public administration is that part of the science of administration which has to do with government, and thus concerns itself primarily with the executive branch, where the work of government is done, though there are obviously administrative problems also in connection with the legislative and the judicial branches. Public administration is thus a division of political science, and one of the social sciences.
- Much of the pioneering work in organization theory was written about public organizations, or with public organizations in mind. When Weber wrote about bureaucracy, he was thinking of the Prussian civil service. Philip Selznick began his scholarly career writing about the New Deal Tennessee Valley Authority in TVA and the Grass Roots (1953). Herbert Simon’s first published article (1937) was on municipal government performance measurement, and Simon also coauthored early in his career a book called Public Administration (1950) and a number of papers (e.g., Simon, 1953) published in Public Administration Review. Michel Crozier’s classic, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (1954), was about two government organizations in France.
- Steven Kelman, "Public management needs help!." Academy of Management Journal 48.6 (2005), p. 967
- Weber's wide-ranging contributions gave critical impetus to the birth of new academic disciplines such as sociology and public administration as well as to the significant reorientation in law, economics, political science, and religious studies.
- Sung Ho Kim, "Max Weber", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
M - R
- FromFrom the earliest days of his emergence, the Rationalist has taken an ominous interest in education. He has a respect for 'brains', a great belief in training them, and is determined that cleverness shall be encouraged and shall receive its reward of power. But what is this education in which the Rationalist believes? It is certainly not an initiation into the moral and intellectual habits and achievements of his society, an entry into the partnership between present and past, a sharing of concrete knowledge; for the Rationalist, all this would be an education in nescience, both valueless and mischievous. It is a training in technique, a training, that is, in the half of knowledge which can be learnt from books when they are used as cribs. And the Rationalist's affected interest in education escapes the suspicion of being a mere subterfuge for imposing himself more firmly on society, only because it is clear that he is as deluded as his pupils. He sincerely believes that a training in technical knowledge is the only education worth while, because he is moved by the faith that there is no knowledge, in the proper sense, except technical knowledge. He believes that a training in 'public administration' is the surest defence against the flattery of a demagogue and the lies of a dictator.
- Michael Oakeshott. Rationalism in Politics, (1947)
- Machiavelli was aware of the limitations of technical knowledge; it was not Machiavelli himself, but his followers, who believed in the sovereignty of technique, who believed that government was nothing more than 'public administration' and could be learned from a book.
- Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics (1947), published in Rationalism in Politics and other essays (1962)
S - Z
- By public administration is meant, in common usage, the activities of the executive branches of national, state, and local governments; independent boards and commissions set up by the congress and state legislatures; government corporations, and certain agencies of a specialized character. Specifically excluded are judicial and legislative agencies within the government and nongovernmental administration.
- Herbert A. Simon, Donald W. Smithburg, and Victor A. Thompson. Public Administration, Transaction Publishers, 1950. p. 7
- Decision theory can be pursued not only for the purposes of building foundations for political economy, or of understanding and explaining phenomena that are in themselves intrinsically interesting, but also for the purpose of offering direct advice to business and governmental decision makers. For reasons not clear to me, this territory was very sparsely settled prior to World War II. Such inhabitants as it had were mainly industrial engineers, students of public administration, and specialists in business functions, none of whom especially identified themselves with the economic sciences...
- Herbert A. Simon, "Rational decision making in business organizations." Nobel Prize lecture 1978, published in: The American economic review 69(4) (1979): 493-513;
- Defined in broadest terms, public administration consists of all those operations having for their purpose the fulfillment or enforcement of public policy. This definition covers a multitude of particular operations in many fields — the delivery of a letter, the sale of public land, the negotiation of a treaty, the award of compensation to an injured workman, the quarantine of a sick child, the removal of litter from a park, manufacturing plutonium, and licensing the use of atomic energy. It includes military as well as civil affairs, much of the work of courts, and all the special fields of government activity— police, education, health, construction of public works, conservation, social security, and many others.
- Leonard D. White, Introduction to the Study of Public Administration, 1926. p. 1