Theories of Luther Halsey Gulick Made Simple

Luther Halsey Gulick was perhaps too modern for 30's and 50's. He agreed to Woodrow Wilson's statement that organizational structure should be established in a way useful to both government and private administrations, yet was critical of large government and officials who thought of themselves as experts and often showed lack of interest in hearing the public.

Throughout the years, he changed his views on the size of the government. But by personality, he was not a flip flopper. He emphasized adjustments and this is what brought changes to what he preached. In short, he was interested in bringing change according to the demands of the situations. We can imagine him as someone who to some extent irritated the elite conventionalists, for his theories were connected to democratic values. Gulick was a public administrator and professor. In 1937, he was chosen by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve in Brownlow Committee made to revamp the executive branch of federal government. Gulick's contributions to public administration studies earned him the title of Dean of Public Administration. As we go over his theories, you will agree that he truly is the rightful owner of that title.


The Cooperative Enterprise

According to Gulick, pluralistic society and democratic government go hand in hand. Together, they are able to extract a vast number of variables which then bring in a wide variety of ideas for positive changes. Government equals to security for both rich and poor. It reduces crimes and clashes. This is what Gulick points out in his writing. According to him, arrogant people can coexist together only because the government is their mediator. Businesses sometimes take the wrong path, making the market system fail. The mess can only be cleaned by the government. After all, every crisis needs intervention. But this does not mean that the power of the government should remain centralized. Instead, effort should be made in inviting the private businesses to work with those from public administrations for causes that help all in the country. He calls it cooperative enterprise.

In Gulick's view, citizens have the right to demand government to work on what they think is important
Planning must be central to it, but government should not do it in centralized manner. Instead effort must be made in hearing groups interested in this plan. In other words, planning should be done with the help of these private businesses, experts of the field, interest groups and of course, the public. Working towards something new is challenging especially when it is beyond the scope of expert's knowledge. That is why, Gulick suggests implementation of adjustment.

Ideal Government 

Just like most intellectuals, Gulick had his own definition for ideal government. According to him, it must have unified management for efficiency and democratic values. This is how he described it:
  • Chief executive and his officials design the policy. They create the proposal to be sent to legislatures.
  • The legislatures review it for either approval or rejection
  • If the policy is approved, the executive embarks on making it effective
  • The citizens are involved in influencing how the policy is designed and approved through interest groups and political parties.

Role of Administration

Administration can never be separate from government. That is what Gulick preached. In his words, the idea is impractical and impossible. This is because the administration implements policies, builds programs, allocates finance, coordinates and even is involved in governmental auditing process. In every way, all of them prove that administration is fully attached to government. Do you see the reality now? People during his time were stubbornly preaching that administration was to be strictly separate from the government. By listing the roles of administrators, Gulick proved that they were not being practical in their statement.

Yet according to him, politicians are somewhat different from such officials in the sense that they have the right to take the ultimate decisions about the policies. So it is more like politicians do the thinking and administrators act on it.  For the system to have a flow, there must be a good understanding of how things work. That is why, he adds that administrators must learn the strategies of the political side of the government system. He probably was the first person to recommend a change in the definition of public administrator.

Roles of Government Officials

Gulick also called for a change in the description of major government officials. How they must be?
Politician: They maintain the balance in the system by influencing the office holders, knowledge workers and interest groups to compromise with one another.
Political appointee: This person is creates link between the government knowledge worker and public.
Administrator: He studies the policy and then interprets, and implements it. Despite the fact that he takes the action, if the policy fails he is not responsible.
Technician: He deals only with technical concepts.

Principles of Administrative Reform

During Gulick's time, federal problems were solved through electoral process and yes, this happened frequently. On the other hand, agencies and committees had more than one leader. To make things worse, people did not think they required a true expert. They believed anyone could lead. Gulick called this formula flawed because it failed to produce the government people were hoping for and agencies never got out of the tent of energy deficiency. Simply put, it was a true situation of too many cooks spoiling the broth. To make things worse, the cooks were inexperienced. That is the reason why Gulick called for a reform through the 11 principles given below:
1. All projects that match should have only one unit.
2. Agencies must be combined into a small number departments.
3. Each unit must have its own skilled, experienced and responsible leader.
4. The leader's responsibility should match his power.
5. The top portion of every major department must employ officials to evaluate performance.
6. The functions must be approved by a special official.
7. Minimize the number of elected officials.
8. Administrative tasks should not be given to those in the boards and commissions. They are to be connected to only quasi legislative and judicial projects.
9. An elected chief executive must be the main leader of all the administrative tasks. He is responsible to voters or representatives.
10. Administrative department leaders must be selected or rejected by only chief executive.
11. The chief executive must employ a group of officials to research on the departments and look for ways to bring improvement in operations.

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