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positions, and laid the foundation for an unprecedented efficiency in her administrative departments. In the meantime the United States was moving in the other direction, and in the third quarter of the nineteenth century the sacrifice of fitness in public servants to favoritism and party work reached its climax. During the last thirty-five years, however, great progress has been made in delivering public office from subordination to private or partisan interest.
Patronage has gone to such lengths in the public service because the service is sustained by taxes rather than by voluntary contributions and because no constituency is so incompetent as the general public to judge what it is getting for its money. Nevertheless the canker may attack any structure that offers places worth having. Business enterprises, universities, churches, charities, and voluntary associations are by no means immune to it. Occasionally nepotism shows itself very clearly in the salary roll of banks and life insurance companies. Fortunately the disease is a patent one, and publicity, proper checks in the power of appointment, and scientific methods of testing qualifications and measuring performance afford the sincere foes of patronage effective means of getting rid of it.
The play of private motives in its personnel may cause a social structure to work quite otherwise than it was intended to work. Then, too, outsiders who have an interest in deflecting the servant from the path of honor study and plot how they may tempt him with the prospect of secret illicit advantage. Under the slang names of "graft" and "boodle" Americans have in recent years become familiar with the means by which their agents are seduced from their known duty. For a bribe the alderman votes to present a valuable franchise to a traction company, the supervising architect of the new city hall passes work "not up to specifications," or the police ignores the existence of outlaw vice shops. The gift of railroad passes or the promise of political aid influences the vote of the legislator. Contracts for public work are jockeyed into the hands of a favored firm instead of the lowest bidder. The purchase of supplies on the public account opens the door to jobbery. Clerks carry home office supplies as "perquisites," while
inspectors are induced to shut their eyes to evils which it is their duty to report.
But betrayal of the master is by no means confined to public Railroad officials withhold freight cars from coal companies along the line that neglect to present them with blocks of stock. Buyers for retail firms swing orders to the wholesaler most lavish with presents or entertainment. Officials take advantage of their inside knowledge to speculate in the securities of their company. A ring of officials taps the treasury of a railroad with bills for needless or fictitious repairs on cars. The directress of an old ladies' home gets admitted to the institution an aged family servant whom she ought to care for herself. In order to attract a gift of tainted money a church muffles its moral message, while in order to hold in line a restive donor a college denatures its teaching in ethics or economics.
Nor is corruption confined to social structures. A great variety of legal relations, such as master and servant, principal and agent, ward and guardian, attorney and client, partnership, trusteeship, etc., opens a door to lucrative betrayal of trust. Indeed stealing, bribery, and illicit advantage are most difficult and dangerous in well-organized structures like a government bureau, or a railroad office, where accounting is thorough, responsibility definite, and every transaction leaves permanent traces of itself. While constantly new and ingenious tricks are invented to get around new safeguards, there are signs that precaution is overtaking rascality. More and more, undetected misconduct is confined to a ring of accomplices who are posted at the strategic points in the organization.
In the endeavor to forestall corruption administrators sometimes bring on a disease nearly as bad, viz., a complication of procedure which makes prompt action impossible. Thus a French commission cites the case of an officer who, having received permission to have made for him at the Hotel des Invalides a pair of non-regimental boots, found himself indebted to the state for the sum of 7 fr. 80, which he was very willing to pay. To render this payment regular there were necessary three letters from the
Minister of War, one from the Minister of Finances, and fifteen letters, decisions, or reports from generals, directors, chiefs of departments, etc.'
Or take the ludicrous procedure cited by Wallace in his Russia (pp. 206-7):
In the residence of a Governor-General one of the stoves is in need of repairs. An ordinary mortal may assume that a man with the rank of Governor-General may be trusted to expend a few shillings conscientiously, and that consequently his Excellency will at once order the repairs to be made and the payment to be put down among the petty expenses. To the bureaucratic mind the case appears in a very different light. All possible contingencies must be carefully provided for. As a Governor-General may possibly be possessed with a mania for making useless alterations, the necessity of the repairs ought to be verified; and as wisdom and honesty are more likely to reside in an assembly than in an individual, it is well to intrust the verification to a council. A council of three or four members accordingly certifies that the repairs are necessary. This is pretty strong authority, but it is not enough. Councils are composed of mere human beings, liable to error and subject to be intimidated by the Governor-General. It is prudent, therefore, that the decision of the council be confirmed by the Procureur, who is directly subordinated to the Minister of Justice. When this double confirmation has been obtained, an architect examines the stove and makes an estimate. But it would be dangerous to give carte blanche to an architect, and therefore the estimate has to be confirmed, first by the aforesaid council and afterwards by the Procureur. When all these formalities-which require sixteen days and ten sheets of paper-have been duly observed, his Excellency is informed that the contemplated repairs will cost two roubles and forty kopeks, or about five shillings of our money. Even here the formalities do not stop, for the Government must have the assurance that the architect who made the estimate and superintended the repairs has not been guilty of negligence. A second architect is therefore sent to examine the work, and his report, like the estimate, requires to be confirmed by the council and the Procureur. The whole correspondence lasts thirty days and requires no less than thirty sheets of paper. Had the person who desired the repairs been not a Governor-General but an ordinary mortal, it is impossible to say how long the procedure might have lasted.
Generally a social structure is less subject than an individual to the enlivening prick of competition. The people cannot turn
'Cited by Le Bon, The Psychology of Socialism, p. 176.
from one health department or school system to another as they turn from one dealer or physician to another. The taxpayers, moreover, have but the vaguest notion of what they ought to receive for their money, and their dissatisfaction with the service rendered registers itself in a smaller appropriation rather than in a “shake-up” in the organization. In the same way an ancient and renowned university will be patronized even if inept, and a church without a rival, dominating an ignorant and submissive peasantry whose whole mental outlook it controls, e.g., the Roman Catholic church in the tropical countries of South America, can with impunity sink into sloth. Whenever a structure is thus exempt from the natural penalty of poor service, the blight of indifferentism is likely to fall upon it.
Indifferentism is a senile rather than an infantile disease. long as a social structure is new and on trial it will naturally be put in charge of energetic individuals who by agitating for it or by previous volunteer service have given proof of disinterested zeal and who will not tolerate listless subordinates. But after the service has struck root and made good its claims to support, after a certain good-will has been created and a guiding routine established, it excites the cupidity of the placeman and a type worms into it who thinks more of how much he can get out of his position than of how much he can put in.
It is commonly assumed that a structure is safe from dry rot if it is under a vigorous administrator who will weed out the lazy and promote the zealous. This indeed is just what a man does in order to get good service from his own employees. But the bureau chief does not own the bureau and hence cannot be trusted to deal always with his subordinates according to their merits. In order to guard against inferior posts being treated as patronage the incumbent is made so secure in his tenure that an energetic chief cannot promptly rid himself of languid underlings who are clever ' enough to avoid downright provable incompetency.
An extreme degree of indifferentism is possible when the personnel of a structure constitutes a self-governing body. Accounting for the negligence of teachers in an endowed university Adam Smith observes:
If the authority to which he [the teacher] is subject resides in the body corporate, the college or university of which he himself is a member, and in which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons who either are or ought to be teachers, they are likely to make a common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbor may neglect his duty, provided that he himself is allowed to neglect his own. In the University of Oxford the greater part of the public professors have for these many years given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.'
Indifference is so quickly felt and resented that a structure brought into direct relations with the general public will not be allowed to suffer long from this disease. A service like the police, fire-fighting, street-cleaning, the weather bureau, the post-office, or the school cannot go far in this direction without calling forth protest from influential persons. Save where there is a monopoly, indifferentism in a university is punished by loss of matriculates, in a clergy by loss of communicants, in a hospital by loss of patients. When, however, the sufferers from slackness are ignorant or lowly people-orphans, the ailing poor, enlisted men, borrowers, convicts, prostitutes, natives, negroes, or immigrants-the disease is not so promptly checked. So, also, when the structure is one that does not betray its sloth to the general public-a navy yard, an arsenal, a forestry bureau, or a customs service-the remedy must come from above.
In some cases inspiring leadership suffices to cure indifferentism. The tabulator yawning over his adding machine, the gymnasium instructor sweating over his awkward squad, may loathe his task because he fails to see it in relation to a worth-while end. Under a born leader who can fire him with a vision of the meaning of it all he may thrill with love of his work. In digging the Panama Canal it is said that the thousands of workers went at their daily task with a right good will because they felt it as part of a stupendous, everlasting achievement-the Canal. Sometimes an effete church, university, or religious order has been roused from its torpor, not by a thrust from without, but by the captaincy of a man of genius and ardor, who has radiated inspiration and kindled cold routinary souls with a vision of the greatness of their opportunity.
* Wealth of Nations, II, 346.