10 Interesting Facts About the History of Public Administration

Public administration has a rich history that dates back to the Greeks. Public administration is putting laws in action to better serve a civilization and the public. While the idea of public administration dates back thousands of years, it played a significant role throughout history as countries developed and new technology changed the way we live and interact. Here’s a look at 10 interesting facts about the history of public administration. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come and how public administration continues to develop as we deal with new challenges like the Internet and public safety.

  1. 400 B.C. Plato recognizes the separation between management and develops the concept of democracy. At this time, the Greek people begin electing their leaders and become educated on social services. It is also at this time that politician’s begin a very loose version of campaigning to expose ideas and platforms in order to gain a place in office.

  2. 325 B.C. We all know Alexander the Great wasn’t a guy who messed around. His organizational skills were beyond his time and helped him organize an army large enough (and smart enough) to conquer most of the world. This isn’t your typical public administration, but it does illustrate how important proper delegation helps the government (or ruling party) conquer quickly.

  3. 1525 Machiavelli realizes that cohesiveness and organization are essential tools for public administration. He also realizes that its most effective when you have a group of people who committed to a cause, versus a group of people who are being forced to participate. Machiavelli also established leadership qualities in subordinates.

  4. 1776 Adam Smith pens his book, Wealth of Nations which discusses public administration and specialization. The book focuses on the economic state of America and what creates a wealthy nation. Smith’s book becomes a benchmark for developing effective public administration that creates a capitalistic society.

  5. 1801 Thomas Jefferson creates the spoils system, sometimes known as the patronage system, in America. This tactic ensures voters are bargained with by the promise of jobs and wage raises by politicians running for office. In modern voting, this process is often called the political machine and is now done in a less blatant way.

  6. 1883 The Pendleton Act is created and slows down the spoils system. At this time the U.S. Civil Service Commission is developed due to President James Garfield’s assassination. The man responsible for killing President Garfield is said to have been rejected from a civil service position. The Civil Service Commission prevents government officials from terminating civil servants without reason and requires civil servant exams for select positions.

  7. 1900 Economist Fredric Taylor develops the need for budgets, cooperation between management and labor workers, and studying work methods to become more effective for the future. Taylor is dubbed the “father of scientific management.” Taylor had a plan for which a socialist economy could become self-sufficient society.

  8. 1927 Sociologist Elton Mayo starts the management system study of a Chicago electric company. This study looks at how environment effects productivity. This study becomes the first of its kind and is used in the management department of various industries to discover how to improve productivity and Mayo’s study leads the Humans Relation Movement. One of the major things learned from this study is that monetary incentive means less to employees than belonging to a group and team morale.

  9. 1964 The Civil Rights Act is created, protecting workers regardless of their sex, religion, race, creed or national origin. At the time, the Civil Rights Act is only implemented in the private sector work force. In 1972, the Civil Rights Act is passed for the public work sector as well.

  10. 1990 It wasn’t until 1990 that the American Disabilities Act was passed. This protects disabled in the work place and applies the Civil Rights Act towards disabled people accessing public and private domains. There are several parts to the America Disabilities Act and it was most recently amended in 2009 to overturn a Supreme Court ruling from over a decade ago that deemed a person could not be defined as disabled if they were working.

  11. Public administration is an ever evolving area. It’s a subject we can learn a lot from and learn where we might be headed when implementing new laws. Organization and innovation are key factors in helping public administration develop in modern society. From Plato to Adam Smith, iconic historical figures have shown the people how to embrace their power. Public administration is the art of putting effective laws into place in the best interest of the people.