This book, a development of the conference on the American Public Service sponsored by the Harvard Guardian, should be on the "must read" list of any undergraduate contemplating a career in some branch of government work. It is a collection of articles by men prominent in the field of public service in the United States, on opportunities in and the general status of government work at the present time.
It is significant that while in the election year 1940 "Big Government" is a topic of heated controversy, this representative group of writers assumes as inevitable the extension of the government sphere of influence: "Government today is compelled to control crucial new areas of public activity. The public service thus becomes an essential instrument for creating a better America."
And having once assumed a bigger public service, the chief problem that confronts these men is how to achieve also a better public service. Particularly crucial is the development of a more equitable system of Civil Service examinations. An increasing amount of weight must be given to native ability rather than experience--this on the supposition that the naturally able man can, in a short time, make up for the superior experience acquired by his innately less competent rival.
But if natural ability is to be ranked over experience, some efficient system of in-service training must be devised. Systems of public service apprenticeship used in other countries, and remarkably reminiscent of the Roman "cursus honorum," are discussed, criticized, and evaluated.
Of particular interest to us, as college undergraduates, is an article by Enno Hobbing, former President of the Guardian, on "Youth and the Public Service." The position of the young man interested in a government job is, in the eyes of Hobbing, a particularly unfortunate one. Not only is he blocked by the Civil Service emphasis on experience, but he is also completely befuddled and bedamned by an annoying little custom known as veteran preference. In many instances, veterans receiving an examination grade of 60 or better are placed at the head of the Civil Service list, while no other competitor can even pass his examination without a grade of at least 70. "Youth is blocked by the burden of the past, by old men and old ideas."
Another problem which is given attention is that of "Political Neutrality." In view of the Hatch Act, and all the "little Hatch acts," what will be the future status of the civil servant? Is it necessary or advisable to deprive a man of his inalienable rights on the doubtful grounds that he works for the government? Mr. Wallace Sayre of the New York Civil Service Commission, who treats of the question at some length, heartily condemns this incipient tendency to "gag" the government employee.