Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

Bureaucracy’s Latest Challenge: Listening to the Public

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The American public often rails about bureaucracy. It is not difficult to fathom why. Who amongst us has not fumed while standing in a long line at an understaffed post office? And how many of us have thrown up our hands in frustration at the complexity of income tax instructions and outsourced the work to an accountant?

The public tends to explain bureaucratic behaviors by attributing ill motives to the bureaucrats. Civil servants, they allege, are arrogant and lazy. Scholars, such as the late James Q. Wilson, have provided us with social scientific evidence of what many individual suspect: bureaucracies, especially government ones, tend to be slow to perform tasks, resist change, and frequently creep beyond their missions.

But, the blame should not be attributed to bad bureaucrats. Rather, research indicates that most of the problems spring from the very nature of government bureaucracy… (read more)

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