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CHAPTER VIII.

THE THEORY OF ADMINISTRATION.

$ 62. Introduction.

63. Centralized Administration.
64. Interdependence.
65. Superior.
66. Inferior.
67. Decentralized Administration.
68. Independence.
69. Lower.
70. Higher.
71. Conclusion.

$ 62. Introduction.

There are two systems of administration : first, centralized administration, and second, decentralized administration. In centralized administration there is central direction; in decentralized administration there is no central direction; while in centralized administration there is one head, in decentralized administration there are various heads. Indeed, in centralized administration all the functions of administration are conceived of as in the head of the administration and everything is held to be done under his direction; so that in a centralized system every officer is inferior to some officer and superior to some other officer in turn. Whereas, in a decentralized administration the conception is that each officer has his own functions vested in him, and that in consequence everything is held to be done of his own motion. It results that in a decentralized system all officers are equal and in the exercise of their functions each is independent. Interdependence is the theory of centralism, on the other hand.

This statement is too much of an abstraction, perhaps, to meet actual conditions in government. No administration exists which is complete in its centralism, still less is any administration known which is absolute in its decentralism. It is plain that no administration could act which was so integrated that there was no discretion in any of its members; it is equally clear that no administration could act which was so disintegrated that every officer had unregulated discretion. In the actual business of government, order carried to the extreme of rigidity and disorder carried to the extreme of confusion would alike stop administration. There must not therefore be too much insistence upon logic in the use of either theory; either system has good effect when qualified to a certain extent by the employment of the other. Therefore, the effort should be to discover in a particular governmental unit what form of administration is best adapted, and to make that the principal form. In the working out of that system, however, much use should be made of the alternative form to fill in the detail. As in most theories of government the best results often will be obtained by a compromise position.

Examples of the two divergent principal types of administration may be found in the United States in two positions of equal prominence in the government; since the Federal government has centralized administration, and the state governments have decentralized administration. Examples, too, of the qualification of one type used as principal, and the other type used as auxiliary, may be found in all governments of the United States. In the Federal administration, that is true,—the administration is centralized with the President as the head; and yet throughout various functions its officers have discretion. In the state administrations, that is true, also,—the administration is decentralized, the Governor has certain functions, so has each head of each department, so that the Governor is not the head, but there are these various heads; and yet throughout, within the various departments themselves, there is centralized organization. With this preface the attempt in this chapter will be to show the processes of administration in the centralized Federal administration, and by contrast in the decentralized state administrations; and at the same time to expose the decentralism in the one and the centralism in the other.

$ 63. Centralized administration.

It has been pointed out in the introductory paragraph that in a centralized administration the conception is that all powers of administration have been vested in the head of the executive department and that all officers act under his direction. At the outset it must be admitted that the President could not perform in person all this function. Neither could any head of department perform in person all that the President intrusts to him of the business of execution. Centralized administration must of necessity be a matter of devolution of powers of superior upon inferior. The legal question involved in this preliminary inquiry is how far powers which have been vested in a superior may be delegated to an inferior. One recognizes that this is a fundamental question, that the discussion of centralized administration cannot proceed until this is determined.

This was the issue in Runkle v. United States, 122 U. S. 543 (1887). In a suit brought in the Court of Claims by Major Runkle for back pay, the decision turned upon this: whether he had been dismissed from the army by due sentence of court martial, which was the defense of the United States. The conviction, findings, and sentence of the court martial were offered in proof; thereupon the objection was made that no action by the President confirming the sentence had been shown, as was required by the 65th Article of War; after which it was shown that the Secretary of War had approved the findings.

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER put a strict construction upon this article: As the sentence under consideration involved the dismissal of Runkle from the army, it could not become operative until approved by the President, after the whole proceedings had been laid before him. The important question is therefore whether that approval has been positively shown. There can be no doubt that the President, in the exercise of his executive powers under the constitution, may act through the head of the appropriate executive department. The heads of the departments are his authorized assistants in the performance of his executive duties, and their official acts, promulgated in the regular course of business, are presumptively his acts. That has been many times decided by the court. Here, however, the action required of the President is judicial in its character, not administrative. As Commander-in-Chief of the army, he has been made by law the person whose duty it is to review the proceedings of courts martial in cases of this kind. This implies that he is himself to consider the proceed. ings laid before him, and decide personally whether they ought to be carried into effect. Such a power he cannot delegate. His personal judgment is required—as much so as it would have been in passing upon the case, if he had been one of the members of the court martial itself. He may call others to his assistance in making his examination, and in informing himself what ought to be done, but his judgment when pronounced must be his own judgment and not that of another.

That this case is sound in its special facts, it cannot be doubted; and yet, obviously, the rule of this case must be of very limited application. The most of administration must go on by delegation, and this opinion, read with attention, if a proper discrimination is made, is not in the way of that need.

Whether this ruling represents the general law govern. ing administration may well be doubted. At all events it cannot be used to contradiet or to qualify the leading case Williams v. United States, 1 How. 290 (1843). This was an action by the United States against the sureties of a marshal in which certain defaults by the marshal were set forth, among them failure to account for money advanced him by the United States. It appeared in the report that the money was advanced at a time when a statute was in force which prohibited the advance of public money in any case whatsoever to the disbursing officers of government except under special direction by the President. It was proved that the money was advanced in this case under special warrant from the Secretary of the Treasury, who had been authorized in writing by the President to make such advances from time to time to various classes of the disbursing officers

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