Federalist No. 23: Can the Leviathan Be Managed?

Published date01 December 2011
Date01 December 2011
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02460.x
Kathryn E. Newcomer is director of
the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and
Public Administration at George Washington
University, where she teaches courses on
public and nonprof‌i t organizations, program
evaluation, research design, and applied
statistics. She routinely conducts evaluations
and training for federal and local govern-
ment agencies and nonprof‌i t organizations.
She has published f‌i ve books, including
The Handbook of Practical Program
Evaluation (2010). She is a Fellow of the
National Academy of Public Administration.
E-mail: newcomer@gwu.edu
James Edwin Kee is a professor in the
Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and
Public Administration at George Washington
University. He also has held a series of legal
and cabinet level positions in New York
State and Utah. His teaching and research
interests focus on leadership, public–private
partnerships, and public f‌i nancial manage-
ment. He is the coauthor of Transforming
Public and Nonprof‌i t Organizations:
Stewardship for Leading Change
(2008) with Kathryn Newcomer.
E-mail: jedkee@gwu.edu
Can the Leviathan Be Managed? S37
Kathryn E. Newcomer
James Edwin Kee
George Washington University
Federalist No. 23 of‌f ers a strong case for national power
and the need to grant “means proportional to the end” to
the new government.  is essay argues that the founders
could not have anticipated the breadth of today’s national
agenda and of‌f ers a framework for designing a more
strategic and ef‌f ective public enterprise.
Government ought to be clothed with all the powers
requisite to the complete execution of its trust . . . there
can be no limitation of that authority
Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 23
In Federalist No. 23, Alexander Hamilton pro-
vides a strong case for national power and for the
importance of granting “means proportional to
the end” to the national government. Both Hamilton
and James Madison foresaw a
time when administration at the
national level might be superior
to that at the local level, leading
to even more shifting of author-
ity to the national government
(e.g., Federalist No. 17, Carey
and McClellan 2001, 46). But
neither Hamilton nor any of
the founding fathers could have
foreseen the breadth of the
national government’s involve-
ment in the economy and the
lives of the citizenry or the
complexity of public manage-
ment in 2011.
e national enterprise for the
public benef‌i t in the United
States is unprecedented in scope,
size, complexity, and externali-
ties.  e reach of the national
government grew dramatically in the twentieth and
early twenty-f‌i rst centuries, in part because of the
rise of increasingly complex policy issues and global
developments that facilitated the transference of many
things, from f‌i nancial crises to diseases and invasive
plants, across state and national borders.  e size of
national government grew in part because of failures,
lack of political will, or inadequate resources at the
local level of government.  e governmental capacity
needed to address modern policy challenges frequently
did not reside in subnational units of government, and
the expansiveness of the activities needed to ensure
public benef‌i ts in some areas has even exceeded the
capacity of the combined ef‌f ort of all of our nation’s
governments.
As the scope of national governmental responsibili-
ties grew, dif‌f erent tools and practices were adopted
to accommodate this growth, but often without
strategic design or a consistent focus on the public
interest. While politicians have paid lip service to
small government, the na-
tional government (led by the
president and Congress) has
expanded its reach into almost
every aspect of commercial and
private life. Yet it has done so
without an extensive increase in
the federal civil service, relying
instead on the use of indirect
methods (taxes and regulation),
grants (to state and nonprof‌i t
organizations), and contracts
(to private as well as nonprof‌i t
organizations) to achieve federal
objectives (Light 1999; Salamon
2002).  e resulting network
of national government “actors”
has made the public enterprise
more complex and increas-
ingly more dif‌f‌i cult to manage
(Rethemeyer and Hatmaker
2007).  e delegation of public
authority has been more by default than by design.
Embarrassing scandals, such as abuses in Abu Ghraib
and by Blackwater, have highlighted the risks of plac-
ing even the nation’s security apparatus in the hands of
private contractors (Arkin and Priest 2010).
Federalist No. 23: Can the Leviathan Be Managed?
Both [Alexander] Hamilton
and James Madison foresaw
a time when administration
at the national level might be
superior to that at the local
level, leading to even more
shifting of authority to the
national government. . . . But
neither Hamilton nor any of
the founding fathers could
have foreseen the breadth of
the national government’s
involvement in the economy
and the lives of the citizenry
or the complexity in public
management in 2011.

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