Bureaus of efficiency were established in America as part of the civic reform agenda during the Progressive era at the beginning of the twentieth century. In some cities they were nonprofit agencies pushing for governmental reform from the outside. In other cities, efficiency bureaus were established by reformers as departments within municipal government, school districts or counties. The goal of such bureaus was to promote efficiency in local government, as a way of fighting political corruption, urban machines and political bosses. Efficiency bureaus sought to professionalize local government through civil service systems, open competitive bidding, separation of public administration from politics, and reorganizing departments to reduce duplication. Efficiency has remained a powerful siren call in American political culture in the twenty-first century. In that respect, little has changed conceptually from the days of the bureaus of efficiency nearly a century earlier. The bureaus may have died out, but not their underlying goal. This volume presents a detailed reconstruction of this phenomenon in American urban history.
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MORDECAI LEE, who holds a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, is a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Previously, he served as a state senator as well as legislative assistant to a U.S. Congressman
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