Politics & government: The bureaucracy
Decades of patronage had left the impression, too often merited, that public administration had been left in the hands of the lazy or the incompetent. Usually at about the second cup of coffee at the diner or the second beer at the bar, a Springfieldian abroad will hear how the capital city’s adult population consists mostly of layabouts and spongers living large at the expense of honest hardworking taxpayers in the rest of the state.
Attempts to modernize state government administration began in earnest with the beginning of the 20th century and were championed to some effect by governors such as Frank Lowden and Richard Ogilvie. The usual remedies were merit hiring, agency reorganizations, performance pay, and the adoption—usually fitful and slow—of new office technologies.
Alas, such fads faded and the career public servant as often as not had to bear the burden of reformers’ hopes alone. Rather than improve the bureaucracy, recent governors such as Quinn and Blagojevich and (especially) Rauner went a long way toward destroying it through inattention. under-funding, or anti-government ideological zeal.
Still the work gets done.
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