The Public Interest

The rise of the bureaucratic state

James Q. Wilson

Fall 1975

DURING its first 150 years, the American republic was not thought to have a “bureaucracy,” and thus it would have been meaningless to refer to the “problems” of a “bureaucratic state.” There were, of course, appointed civilian officials: Though only about 3,000 at the end of the Federalist period, there were about 95,000 by the time Grover Cleveland assumed office in 1881, and nearly half a million by 1925. Some aspects of these numerous officials were regarded as problems-notably, the standards by which they were appointed and the political loyalties to which they were held-but these were thought to be matters of proper character and good management. The great political and constitutional struggles were not over the power of the administrative apparatus, but over the power of the President, of Congress, and of the states.

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