Civil Service

A civil service system is one in which hiring and promoting government employees depend on examination scores or other objective criteria related to the work being performed. Except for relatively high-level policymaking positions, promotion is usually from within an agency. Air jordan 12 for sale. This fosters the division of labor, increases expertise, and ideally assures that hiring and promotion are not based on partisan or personal connections.

Civil service systems differ from spoils systems, in which government employment requires support from political party officials. Spoils systems force bureaucrats to be accountable to politicians, but they also take time away from work and allow some to win jobs because of partisan connections rather than merit. Spoils can also allow a political party to hold power through patronage and to “assess” government employees a percentage of their wages.

In 1881 municipal reform leagues began agitating for civil service on the local, state, and national levels, many after a “disappointed office seeker” assassinated President James A. Garfield. Nike Air Max 90 Womens Pure Platinum Fusion Pink Laser Purple W345017-016. In 1883 the Pendleton Act established a civil service covering 10 percent of federal jobs. This was gradually extended.

On the state and local levels in the late 1800s, urbanization made the delivery of services more important than ever, and it was thought that merit would be less corrupt and more efficient than spoils. As a result, America could be as modern as Britain, France, and Prussia. Since native-born Americans usually performed better than immigrants on examinations, civil service could also favor educated Protestants at the expense of (usually Irish) Catholics. These effects were mitigated in many cities by good public schools and because tests were designed for particular jobs rather than general academic training.

In 1883 New York established the first merit system at the state level, and Massachusetts followed a year later. In 1884 Albany, New York, became the first city with a merit system, and in 1895 Cook County, Illinois, became the first county to do so. Ironically these were among the last places to adopt merit systems fully.

By World War II, federal statutes required cities to use merit systems in local agencies that received federal funds. Recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions mandate the use of merit systems for all positions that do not determine policy on the grounds that spoils systems violate the free speech and free association rights of government employees.

The percentage of employees in civil service systems varies among localities and across agencies. Smaller incorporated areas are less likely to use formal merit systems, though informal practices often have the same intent, and for some professions (e.g., police) statewide examinations are used to screen applicants.

Today, civil service is still defended on the grounds of efficiency and honesty. Surveys and case studies suggest that local bureaucrats appointed on the basis of merit are more likely than political appointees to allocate services according to professional norms and standards rather than partisan or constituency demands. At the same time, merit bureaucracies are criticized as limiting the control of elected officials over government. Conservatives see them as inflexible, unaccountable, and inefficient; therefore, some governments use consultants and contract out work previously done by civil servants. Liberals complain that merit systems are elitist and underrepresent minorities and women. Affirmative action and comparable worth programs are often seen as contradicting merit systems.

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