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In a radio broadcast recently sponsored by the "Guardian," Frank S. Hopkins, a Nieman Fellow, declared that Congress should delegate to specialized bureaus and administrative agencies the detailed tasks such as fact-finding or investigations of current problems, "while retaining for itself the ultimate control over policies." Superficially this seems like an admirable proposal, but some thought about its possible ramifications reveals the fallacies.
If these technical and highly-specialized agencies are to be effective, they must have the best possible trained personnel. Hopkins seemed to think that intelligent newspaper publicity would be an adequate safeguard against poor patronage appointments and the agencies misuse of their delegated power. Yet such front-page publicity would be well-high impossible to get, for unlike the T.V.A. or the S.E.C., whose decisions on matters of policy frequently rate headlines, these proposed bureaus would be solely menial, administrative instruments of policies already enacted by Congress. Since these agencies would probably assume a position similar to that of the Budget Bureau--a little-known, important unit of the Treasury Department--Congress and not the new bureaus would receive any forthcoming publicity, favorable or otherwise. Thus it appears that if the bureaus did their job efficiently they would blend into the general governmental scene, but if they were inefficient because of patronage or for other reasons, Congress would be subjecting itself to additional criticism which in no way would improve the bureaus.
Nor is it likely that in order to put the best-trained men in the right jobs this proposed bureaucracy could be placed under the Civil Service Commission. One source of a president's power and his party leadership is his control of patronage. Should he be unable to pass out jobs in the present agencies as well as in the proposed bureaus, his only resource, since patronage is essential to his position as national leader both of country and party, would be the creation of temporary councils, commissions, and the like. Such a top-heavy executive structure would only end whatever democratic efficiency as then might exist.
But before the government creates any new additions to the administrative tree, it would do well to prune off the already dead limbs. President Roosevelt's reorganization bill last year was killed not because of any flaw in the bill itself but because an unjustly irate nation sought to render a personal rebuke to the President. An intelligently-drafted bill on the same order, if quietly presented, despite the more moderate Congress, might very well be passed, and with executive reorganization it is probable that many of the proposed bureaus would be unnecessary. Rather than build onto an already-tottering executive structure, as Hopkins and others suggest, the government would do well to coordinate and streamline its present organization. For in an era of anti-democratic tempests and propaganda, a streamlined America could more easily ride through the blast.
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