Valuing Bureaucracy Is a Quixotic Project

In Valuing Bureaucracy: The Case for Professional Government, Paul R. Verkuil notes that the number of federal civil servants has not increased in decades—it is now at the level it was during the Kennedy Administration. All growth in the federal workforce has been through the addition of contractors. Verkuil argues passionately and persuasively that we should change this situation and return to a federal workforce that consists primarily of professional bureaucrats. He recognizes, however, that such a change would not benefit the country without major changes to the civil service system. I agree with Verkuil, but he is waging a quixotic campaign. The changes he urges cannot happen for many reasons. First, neither political party will support such a change. As Verkuil acknowledges, Republicans want to decrease significantly the number of federal civil servants, while Democrats want to retain the number we have today. There is no chance that a compromise between the…

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