The Role of Performance Measurement in the Public Administration Discipline: Then and Now
34 Pages Posted: 24 Sep 2015
Date Written: October 1, 2003
This paper examines the practice of public administration within the scope of the political theory of democratic sovereignty. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, experiments in government sought to resolve the need for competence within the scope of the sovereign public. There was a genuine concern that excessive administrative hierarchy would return the United States to autocratic control. However, legislative control was considered corrupt or given to excessive dispersion of responsibility.
The core device for reconciling competence and sovereignty, as articulated by Frank Goodnow, was to link discretion to reporting. Administrators are allowed wide discretion in carrying out legislative decisions so long as the satisfactorily report their activities and success to the legislative (democratically sovereign) decision maker.
The paper explores difficulties that arise when administrators become experts who supplant value-based decisions with scientized standards. It explores the relationship between efficiency and effectiveness. And, it explores the significance of dispersed discretion throughout the organization for hierarchic responsibility.
Although problematic, the combination of legislative decision-making, administrative discretion, and performance reporting is the likely viable method for retaining democratic sovereignty and achieving competent government.
Keywords: Administrative discretion, Performance measurement, Public administration, Political theory
JEL Classification: Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation