Peer 1 response
Question #3: Discuss the author’s thoughts on civil service cultures. How do you see these systems as differing (or are they not that different) from bureaucracy in the United States?
The author expresses sentiments about civil service in a fair and balanced way that analyzes the benefits and consequences of civil service cultures. The author explains why civil service is a vital system that exists in European government that has a long chain of command, where even the lower-level officials have power to influence and change policy. The textbook illuminates the fact that although civil service culture in Europe is different from the United States, forms of civil service culture across Europe are still different. Ultimately the author expresses his steady concern for a lack of accountability that public servants are held to in European governments. The author addresses the principle-agent problem, where the agent (in this case the government officials) do what they promised to do on behalf of the principal (agent they act for). This issue is present across all civil service and is not exclusive to Europe. It is always possible that an agent fails to follow through to with their promises to implement the preferred policy. The author also points out the problem that many of the senior civil service officials rely heavily on their junior collogues who have more specialized information.
The author distinguishes two factors that affect civil service. The first being the civil service culture of the country. There are many different cultures of civil service that allow a country to function in its own specific way. In some civil service cultures, like that of Great Britain where people rely heavily on senior members instead of specialized expertise. This tends to give way to decision making via peer pressure and group ideology. In contrast, other countries rely more on specialized expertise for example, France. The second is the amount of politicization that the senior bureaucrats of a country experience. In some countries, these people of power are highly politicized will tend to have people underneath them that will support their line of thinking and decision making. Britain and Ireland are examples of European countries that do not politicize their civil service culture. A new minster may experience walking into a department with very different agendas from their own. However, the author reports that in western Europe politicization of the civil service has been increasing.
Although there is a steady trend of increased politicization European countries compared to the politicization of civil service culture that occurs in America, this seems marginal. The United States is highly politicized in terms of its civil service culture. As soon as a new president takes office a large shift takes place in the senior civil service members who now generally support the president’s ideas and actions. In my opinion the United States should consider moving toward making its politicization of senior bureaucrats more like what occurs in Europe to reduce polarization in the country.
peer 2 response
Question #1: The authors contrast centralized and federal systems of government and discuss them in various European countries. Why do you think that federalism was not adopted in some Eastern European countries? Be specific.
Despite the diversity of eastern Europe including even the diversity within countries not just across them it may seem puzzling why they have not adopted federal systems in modern day, even as much of western Europe moves towards granting more authority to localities over central governments. This is mostly due to the fact that eastern Europe has had a painful history with federalism and do not want to relive those negative experiences.
These eastern European countries have all been under the control of the Soviet Union. Their experience with the Soviet’s federal system, even though it was not really federalism in the truest sense, was a negative one. These countries were ruled from the top down from the Kremlin and had to abide by the commands of Russia. So many years being denied self governance under the name of federalism these countries has left a bad impression of federalism. It is possible that their experiences under the Soviet Union have caused them to embrace their national identity over regional identities in the face of an “other” (Control by Russia).
These eastern European EU members may have also learned from the experience of the former Yugoslavia, where ethnic tensions resulted in war and separation into separate countries. Trying not to emulate the experience of war between different groups under one government they may have decided not to emulate what was deemed a federal state. This might be a reason why these countries did not move towards another union or coalition of eastern European states like a Pan Slav union as has been considered in earlier eras.
Another thing that was mentioned in the chapter was that in some of these countries it would be advantageous for the majority to have a unitary system because they do not want to cede their authority to a regional minority. Even though this might not be the best course of action for the sake of keeping peace but it is a logical reason as to why these countries have chosen unitary government.