Why the Brownlow Committee Failed: Neutrality and Partisanship in the Early Years of Public Administration
Administration and Society, 28.1 (May 1996), pp. 3-38.
55 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2008
Date Written: July 19, 1994
In 1938, Congress rejected a package of administrative reforms that had been developed by a committee of academics headed by Louis Brownlow. The defeat was the worst that President Roosevelt would suffer in three terms as President. This article suggests that the Brownlow Committee contributed to the debacle in Congress by ignoring evidence that its recommendations would prove contentious. It is argued that the committee members were caught in a dilemma: On the one hand, they wanted to obtain immediate reforms for a president to whom they felt a personal loyalty; on the other, they needed to maintain a demonstration of neutrality, which made it difficult to undertake the tasks of political management that were essential to craft a viable reform program. The demonstration of neutrality was a combination of arguments and routines that the academic community had invented to allay public skepticism about its members' trustworthiness as advisers on contentious issues.
Keywords: public administration, Roosevelt, reorganization, expertise, rhetoric, New Deal
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