Title page for ETD etd-08262005-220709

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Park, Soo-Young
Author's Email Address refounding@vt.edu
URN etd-08262005-220709
Title Who Is Our Master? -Debates during Civil Service Reforms-
Degree PhD
Department Public Administration and Public Affairs
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Rohr, John A. Committee Chair
Hult, Karen M. Committee Member
Lane, Larry M. Committee Member
Wamsley, Gary L. Committee Member
Wolf, James F. Committee Member
  • civil service reform
  • bureaucratic autonomy
  • multiple masters
  • Civil Service Reform Act
  • Tenure of Office Act
  • Pendleton Act
Date of Defense 2005-08-22
Availability unrestricted
Who is the American bureaucracy's master in national government? At least three different sets of answers have been proposed. The first answer claims a single master of American bureaucracy, be it the president, Congress, or the courts. The second denies that there is any master over the bureaucracy and claims the existence of bureaucratic autonomy. In the middle of the two theories, there lies multiple masters theory.

This dissertation attempts to advocate multiple masters theory by answering such questions as "Is the conception of multiple masters only theoretically conceivable, or is it historically supported?" or "Does the historical record suggest that multiple masters scheme was seriously in play in actual American constitutional dialogue?"

To be a master, one should have at least one of the following powers - budget, personnel, information, and regulatory review. This dissertation focuses on one of them - the appointing power. To look at it historically, this dissertation chose four distinct periods of American history. They are the founding era, Jacksonian era, Republican era, and the Carter Administration. These eras were related to the four important civil service reform acts: the two Tenure of Office Acts of 1820 and 1867, Pendleton Act of 1883, and the CSRA of 1978. Congressional debates recorded in Congressional Record were analyzed to find evidences supporting multiple masters perspective.

There were evidences that support the significant existence and role of the multiple masters perspective in all the four eras analyzed. Although weakened in the 1978 debate, the multiple masters theory was supported in important congressional debates by leading politicians of the day, providing historical foundation for the theory.

The multiple masters perspective provides a need to construct a normative foundation for bureaucrats to adopt, because bureaucrats, in many cases, cannot avoid making decisions on which master to choose and which to ignore at a given time on a given issue.

Under the multiple masters scheme, bureaucrats may have to play the role of balance wheel in the constitutional order, using their statutory powers and professional expertise to favor whichever constitutional masters need their help to preserve the purpose of the Constitution itself.

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