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Waldo in the Light of Austerity and Federal Debt Crisis, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 2 part series.
Read Part 1 by clicking the
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Jan Kallberg

Waldo’s predictions about the future for public administration describe five areas that would be problematic in the future: legitimacy, authority, knowledge, control, and confidence. Legitimacy includes not only that the government is legally legitimized but capable and focused on an intention to deliver the “good society.” Authority, according to Waldo, is the ability to implement policy with the acceptance of the people based on rationalism, expectations of public good, ethics, superior knowledge, and institutional contexts. Knowledge is institutional knowledge, the ability to arrange and utilize knowledge within the bureaucracy since coordination is the major challenge in knowledge management. Government has never had so much information and data, but to arrange, structure, and manage this knowledge within government is a major hurdle. Control is the ability to control what we want to control in the bureaucracy. The growing size of government, with a multitude of programs running often parallel, seeking to solve issues for a diverse population, generates entropy and undermines control. Confidence is trust people have that government delivers the “good society” in the future. The debt crisis, and its media attention, is an example of a situation that could decrease the confidence in government. According to Waldo, feelings of vulnerability and fear of future events are the absence of confidence in public administration, which have direct implications on the health care debate and the financial health of Medicare and Social Security.
A legitimate government demonstrates that taxes are not collected in waste and that the return of public service makes taxes worth paying. The government proposes to the population that it can do a better job for all citizens; the charge for those services is taxes. Just simply claiming that government does a better job is not enough, it must be demonstrated. Accountability to the people goes as a red thread through Waldo’s reflections. Where is the public money spent? Why is it spent? What tangible problem does the public program address? Government and politicians should be prepared to be held accountable.

According to Waldo, administration frames civilization and gives civilization its foundation. We as a society understand the importance of accountability for our political and bureaucratic processes to function properly and to allow consistently ethical operations of daily business. To uphold accountability, an opportunity must exist for anyone who wants to inquire, investigate, and gather information about any potential wrongdoing. Open Government and transparency address the citizens’ opportunity to inquire and investigate. If we fail to create a transparent government not only will accountability be affected, but also legitimacy, authority, and confidence.

The book The Enterprise of Public Administration is over 30 years old, it was written when Jimmy Carter was president and “Star Trek” the movie was not yet released, but it is accurate amazingly accurate to describe the challenges and foundation for modern public administration. Waldo visualized and pointed out problems that we are facing, and will face, which makes a revisit to the wisdoms of The Enterprise of Public Administration a sound time investment.

Jan Kallberg, PhD, is a recent graduate from School of Economic, Political & Policy Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas. Email: [email protected]

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