Monday, July 13, 2009

Notes on Government Units and Power

1. GOVERNMENTAL UNITS AND POWER. The interplay of clients and advocates upon different units of government, and the interplay of government units with other units as well as the overall governmental unit creates various outcomes for each party. These roles, levels of power, and interplays change over time. As situations change, conditions and outcomes change.
The behavior of a unit of government depends upon many factors. These include 1.) the need of the unit to be seen as contributing towards a unified effort with other governmental units towards some common goal(s), 2.) the need to achieve these goals, 3.) the importance the governmental unit places on receiving its share of recognition when goals are achieved, and 4.) conversely, the important the governmental unit places on receiving its share of the blame when goals are not met..
The important a governmental unit places on the above factors can result in various organizational behavioral patterns. If a high priority is placed on goal 1, the governmental unit’s will shape its actions towards achieving the goal with lesser consideration to the other factors. This is a position that governmental leaders that are higher in power generally prefer, as it is usually in their interests that their units act to achieve the same goals they set.
An example of achieving need number 1 would be fire fighters in a multiple alarm fire call attempting to put out a fire. At the moment of facing the fire, there generally is little thought given to whether it is their unit or a unit from another fire company that will receive the credit for dousing the fire. Granted, receiving credit and attempting to demonstrate greater proficiency over a “friendly rival” company can interplay. The thought of ultimate awarding of achievement recognition may exist in the minds of some fire fighters. Yet, the existing threat minimizes these tendencies and thoughts.
The need to achieve goal number 1 (being seen as part of a coordinated effort) may be undermined should goal number 2 have a lesser importance. For instance, it may be important for a police officer to be seen as part of a coordinated effort at crowd control along a parade route with few attendees on a very hot day. Yet, there may be police officers willing to risk subverting the goal of maintaining their positions of maintaining coordinated efforts at parade protection in order to run into nearby stores or vendors to purchase and consume beverages. The goal is not apparently very important and the risk is slight, although it will matter whether the end result is indeed the expectation that there are no consequences or if the end result if a person is someone harmed during the police officer’s absence in an manner where the police officer’s presence could have made a difference in the outcome.
The important of achieving goal number 3 (achieving recognition to the governmental group) can result in behavior that can be beneficial and detrimental to the goals of the overall organization as determined by those at higher power levels. Examples of this are seen during wartime. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines each wish to win victory. Yet, each military unit wishes to be seen as a primary reason for achieving victory. Soldiers in each branch often develop a sense of loyalty to their unit. This can provide positive motivation in increasing their efforts when fighting. They are fighting not just for country but for their fellow soldiers in their unit. Unfortunately, this esprit can have negative effects, when one unit attempts to undermine the other. Many soldiers have tales of rivalries between branches of military units, from officers placing the glory or concerns of the units above the overall objectives, to Congressional fights over the distribution of funds to each of the units, to bar fights between soldiers of different units primarily on the basis of their differing units.
Conversely, goal number 4 (the importance a unit places on not being blamed when goals aren’t met) can bring either positive or negative behavior towards achieving the overall goals of those with greater power. It could make the unit more properly cautious and analytical in its behavior so that risk to the unit is properly reduced and overall risk is reduced. Yet, if achieving this goal makes the unit too cautious to properly act such that the overall goal is jeopardized, then this behavior can produce negative consequences towards the overall objective.
It should be noted that the actions of governmental units are usually an intertwined mixture of behaviors amongst different people and that each person has multiple objectives and reasons for their behaviors. Yet, to the degree that the resulting actions of governmental units can be observed, it is possible to note that units of government can demonstrate tendencies towards these general actions.
A. WHERE GOVERNMENTAL UNITS GET POWER Governmental units usually derive their power as granted to them by their organization in which they exist. The amount of power a governmental unit has can be sharply influenced by the clientele group that the unit serves. Thus, the need of the overall organization to gain the support or to provide assistance or keep happy the clientele group means the unit providing these required services receives special importance in the view of those with higher power within the organization. Thus, the power relationship between the clientele group and the overall organization impacts the amount of responsibilities and power the overall group may place upon the governmental unit. (1. Rourke)
B. It should be noted that the degree to which different advocacy groups have power relative to each other can be reflected in the relative power they have within government. The sheer virtue of having power means that greater power possesses greater ability to influence government. This, by no means, is a given, as the demands that advocates place on government go through a filtering process where government action in favor of their requests are by no means guaranteed. Yet, by definition, those with greater power have advantages in using their power to advocate for their wants. Thus, there is sometimes a tendency for the views and actions of government to reflect the views and desires of society in general. (2. Rourke)
C. 2. CITIZEN PARTICIPATION. The various ways citizens participate in attempting to influence governmental activity can influence the outcomes of government activity. Citizen participation can range from inactivity to voting to making views known to violent overthrowing of the government. There are obviously many degrees of participation within the extreme levels of citizen participation.
D. A. DECENTRALIZATION OF GOVERNMENT AND CITIZEN PARTICIPATION. It is argued by divergent political philosophies that the decentralization of government increases citizen participation. Some political “conservatives” view governmental decentralization as the breaking down of authority from a select and limited group of politically powerful people such that power can be permitted to be shared by a greater number of citizens. Some political “liberals” view governmental decentralization as bringing governmental power back to the ‘grass roots’ of political involvement. Thus, with “conservatives” fearing concentrated political power in the hands of a few and “liberals” applauding greater political access, both viewpoints agree that citizen participation increases when government power is decentralized. (3, Rourke)

1. Francis E. Rourke. Bureaucracy, Politics, and Public Policy. 3rd Ed. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1984, pp. 1-2. Rourke notes how bureaucratic agencies compete with other agencies for power within their governmental organization structure. They use the political influences generated by the clientele groups they serve to their advantages in these power struggles. Rourke, though, is cautious to note that power emerges from multiple sources. The affirmation that outside groups provide to an agency is by no means not the only source of organizational power. (1-1 in notes)

2. Francis E. Rourke. Bureaucracy, Politics, and Public Policy. 3rd Ed. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1984, p. 8. Rourke notes that inequities within societal power are sometimes reflected in similar inequities in governmental actions. The overall viewpoint of government often resembles the overall viewpoint of society. (1-1 in notes)

3. Francis E. Rourke. Bureaucracy, Politics, and Public Policy. 3rd Ed. Boston” Little, Brow, and Co., 1984, p. 9. Rourke notes that citizen participation appears to increase when government agencies decentralize. Rourke made these observation during the “Reagan Revolution” of the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan advocated government decentralization.. It should be noted there are varying opinions on the degree to which this was accomplished.


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