Monday, December 22, 2008

Two from Roberts on the Brownlow Committee and dissent within the academic community

Alasdair S. Roberts, Suffolk University Law School, has posted two related papers published earlier. The first is Why the Brownlow Committee Failed: Neutrality and Partisanship in the Early Years of Public Administration. It a appeared in Administration and Society (May 1996). Here's the abstract:
In 1938, Congress rejected a package of administrative reforms that had been developed by a committee of academics headed by Louis Brownlow. The defeat was the worst that President Roosevelt would suffer in three terms as President. This article suggests that the Brownlow Committee contributed to the debacle in Congress by ignoring evidence that its recommendations would prove contentious. It is argued that the committee members were caught in a dilemma: On the one hand, they wanted to obtain immediate reforms for a president to whom they felt a personal loyalty; on the other, they needed to maintain a demonstration of neutrality, which made it difficult to undertake the tasks of political management that were essential to craft a viable reform program. The demonstration of neutrality was a combination of arguments and routines that the academic community had invented to allay public skepticism about its members' trustworthiness as advisers on contentious issues.

Roberts' second paper is The Brownlow-Brookings Feud: The Politics of Dissent within the Academic Community. It appeared in the Journal of Policy History (1995). Here's the abstract:
In January, 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt submitted an ambitious plan for administrative reform of the national government to Congress. The Brownlow recommendations produced intense debate in Congress. However, some of the most
important skirmishes in this battle were not fought in public, and even after half a century remain largely obscured from public view. One such skirmish was the contest within the academic community about the recommendations on administrative reform that were to be put before Congress. This paper considers why all three parties to this fight -- the Brownlow Committee, the Brookings Institution, and the Rockefeller Foundation -- went to such lengths to avoid public disagreement about the Brownlow recommendations. A public disagreement threatened to undermine the academic community's demonstration of neutrality, and thus to undermine the stability of the Public Administration community itself.