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Congressional Control of the Public Service*

  • Leonard D. White (a1)

Since the English Revolution of 1688, it has been a part of the Anglo-American tradition that elected representative assemblies control the policies and acts of the executive branch of the government. This doctrine was firmly embedded in the American state and federal constitutions. With some wartime reservations, it has been universally accepted throughout our country. At the present time, however, there is an uneasy feeling that practice does not square with theory. There is even a suspicion that practice contradicts theory—that a vast body of officials has in fact escaped the possibility of control by the people's representatives.

The trends of the last half-century have certainly complicated the problem of congressional authority over administration. This has occurred in part because administration has made impressive gains in effective organization and operation, while relatively Congress has stood still. Within the administrative system there has developed a capacity for self-direction which might well challenge the dominance of Congress, if Congress continues to be the laggard partner in the governmental team.

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1 House Report No. 1912, 78th Cong., 2nd Sess., Nov. 20, 1944.

* Prepared for delivery as the presidential address at the fortieth annual meeting of the American Political Science Association at Washington, D. C., February, 1945. On account of travel and hotel congestion, the meeting was cancelled.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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