Reorganization of government: a bureau specific account of the consolidation issue

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The "decision costs" of unanimity are a well known fact of collective decision making and in many instances provide the reason for rejection of such a rule. These costs, however, would not have proved prohibitive had the unanimity rule been applied to decisions regarding reorganization in government. Consolidation as a means of efficiency has been accepted by both the public administration literature and the public administrator alike; scarcely a word has been raised in objection when this means has been proposed to reduce cost.

Recently, however, this unanimity has been challenged, notably or perhaps expectedly, by a number of individuals identified with the theory of public choice. These heretics have suggested the perverse relation, increased government spending as a result of consolidation. Their arguments are fashioned on the basis of some solid microeconomic theory and are well suited to the esoteric environment in which they have been presented.

The contribution of this thesis will be clearly institutional rather than theoretical. I make no apology for this fact. What is needed before the inertia of a century of consolidation of government sweeps aside the voices of dissent is a presentation and discussion of the actual results of consolidation in light of its stated intent.

Specifically the thesis will trace a history of government reorganization at the federal level while at the same time focusing on the continued emphasis placed upon consolidation. Additionally the discussions, events, and relevant characters involved in actual consolidations of government will be examined. The statistical method will allow a comparison of the actual allocation of resources to the consolidated bureau with that which could have been expected had consolidation not occurred. This comparison will result in an evaluation of whether consolidation does or does not achieve economy in government.