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4. It should be provided that no contract or agreement shall be entered into for the purchase of supplies, materials, and equipment except in conformity with the standard specifications and regulations established by the budget-making authority or the purchasing agent to govern the purchase of such commodities.
It is quite important to see just how far the author gets away from the rigidity against which he seeks to provide by a system of transfers. In the first place it will be noted that there is a lump-sum appropriation for "personal services" even in the schedule attached to the lump-sum appropriation for current expenses. This seems to escape from the appropriation for particular individuals and particular positions which is now causing so much trouble in the appropriation bills of some educational institutions.
When one reads the four general provisions and particularly number three it does not seem so sure that the desired elasticity has been secured. So far as number three is concerned one would not be sure that the schedule referred to was not attached to the appropriation bill. Reference to the schedule on page 147 and some correspondence with the author reveals the fact that he does not wish the salary schedule to be a part of the appropriation bill. And yet if this list is something in existence at the time of the appropriation and is referred to as authoritative isn't it substantially included in the bill? Perhaps the author would agree that at least in the case of educational institutions the list of salaries should be simply a list showing the range of salaries for the respective ranks of instructor, adjunct professor, associate professor, etc. The majority of legislatures, however, leave even this matter to the governing boards of the state institutions. It would be a grave mistake to make the governor of a state the final authority as to the salaries paid the professors in the University. If this cannot be left in the hands of the governing board of regents or curators then this board is unable to make contracts until an appropriation is made, and is greatly hampered in securing staff for the first year of each biennium.
Even in the case of the civil service commission it would
not be wise for its list of salaries as submitted at the beginning of a biennium to be binding for all positions. There must be some range of salaries for respective positions and it must be possible to vary from the particular estimated item used in getting at the total of the appropriation bill. The author may have had in mind an elastic provision. He has not, however, given a lucid treatment of the matter of elasticity as applied to personal services in an appropriation bill. Perhaps he presupposes wide information as to the usual discretionary powers of a civil service commission. In the absence of such a commission the governor, I presume, must agree to some form of salary schedule. But this schedule can be made so as to give discretion to the governing board or place all discretion in the hands of the governor. It is not clear to me just exactly what the author has substituted for itemization in the case of personal services.
It is to be noted of course that the author does not favor the governor's having power to transfer from the total of current expenses to the item of acquisition of property. The transfers are to be made from one current expense item to another. For example, a transfer might be made from the “personal services” item to the "supplies and materials” item. So far as this distinction applies to large property items it might work out well. It would not seem proper to transfer from a building appropriation to a current expense operation. There is, however, in all large educational institutions a large amount of office equipment. Much of this equipment lasts from two to five years. It is not customary in state accounting to set up depreciation reserves and replacement funds so that this office equipment can be provided in that way. Moreover, in the field of scientific laboratory equipment, there is constant change. Likewise much of this equipment in the case of educational institutions is purchased in larger or smaller quantities according to the enrollment of students. It isn't unusual for the enrollment of a department to increase fifty per cent when the total enrollment may increase ten per cent or fifteen per cent. This cannot be foreseen and it affects the total acquisition of property which an institution requires for its purposes. Where you cannot foresee the approximate needs for two years it is not reasonable to set up a rigid item.
While the author of Budget Making has gone much farther on the question of the elasticity of the budget he still seems to emphasize itemization unduly as a protection to the state.
The chief protection to a state as well as to private industry is to be found in the service rendered and the unit cost of such service. A standardized cost system reduced, where possible, to the basis of unit costs is a method of setting up standards of efficiency, which has large responsibilities in governmental administration as elsewhere. The book under review recognizes the value of cost data but pays little attention to it as a basis of legislative control. In his Form B, page 75, the estimated unit costs are called for along with quantities in the preparation of the estimate of current expenses, but actual unit costs in past operations are not called for. While the author might say that these actual costs would be accessible in the operating data the answer to this may be that they are not usually accessible. Moreover, the state institutions are not making an effort to so standardize the accounting classification that unit costs are comparable and valuable. Form B, page 75, would be greatly improved if it carried opposite the actual expenditure column for expense items the actual unit costs. The budget making authority would then be in position to inquire as to the reason for increases per unit in the estimated costs over the unit costs of preceeding periods. The bringing of unit costs into an important position would call for standardized dependable data and there would be a gradual shift to a more reasonable basis of legislative control.
The reviewer believes that Budget Making is a valuable contribution to the literature of management of governmental affairs and also agrees with the author for the most part but believes at the same time that he still over-emphasizes the importance of itemization and fails to set forth lucidly a program of elasticity in administration in matters affecting personal services. University of Texas.
LIPPMANN, WALTER. Public Opinion. (New York: Har
court, Brace and Company, 1922. Pp. 418.) Mr. Lippmann's treatment of this, one of the fundamental problems of popular government, is written almost entirely from the psychological point of view. Aside from furnishing him with a vast array of interesting illustrations, his journalistic experience seems to have contributed little to the work save a strong conviction that the press can never play any important part in the formation of true opinion. Being primarily a psychological study, it is to be expected that it will deal rather with the nature of public opinion than with its importance in the affairs of government or its modes of expression. It is the intention of the author, then, to approach this problem from the angle that is all too frequently taken for granted. That it should not be taken for granted is clearly demonstrated by this volume.
The book is exceedingly difficult to summarize; certainly it suffers in the process, for its chief merit is found in the brilliant analysis of the various aspects having to do with the nature of public opinion, rather than the conclusions to which the author comes. The book is divided into eight parts. Part I, the Introduction, has as the title of its single chapter “The World Outside and the Pictures in Our Heads." Here it is pointed out that men really do not behave in "response to the facts of the Great Society" buu "in response to what' can fairly be called a most inadequate picture of the Great Society.” Part II enlarges upon this theme by showing the actual inadequacy of the opportunities afforded the average citizen for securing accurate information of the World Outside, and incidentally of his failure to take advantage of these. Then follow five chapters dealing in a most suggestive manner with the part played by stereotyped ideas, traditional beliefs, and inherited prejudices in determining opinion. Part IV, dealing with “Interests,” first describes the methods by which interest is focussed on a given subject and then demonstrates the folly of a complete acceptance of the doctrine of economic interest as affecting the formation of opinion. Part V deals with the methods employed by leaders in the "Making of a Common Will," a section that elaborates Lord Bryce's observation that all governments, whatever their form, are really the rule of a few. The people may go through the motions of assent or dissent, but the leaders, by means of appeal to prejudice, symbols, interests, and the like, effectively control the government. In Part VI, “The Image of Democracy,” Mr. Lippmann has written a section that is calculated to leave few illusions about the adequacy of the older democratic theory of the well-nigh omnicompetent citizen—the belief in the idea that man is by nature so political an animal that he is capable of guiding unaided, all the affairs of the state. Part VII deals with "Newspapers.” Here he distinguishes between truth and news, and comes to the conclusion that the press cannot be depended upon to present to the people the facts that are essential to the formation of sound opinion. The final part of the book contains Mr. Lippmann's constructive proposals. He advocates the establishment of organized agencies acting as a part of the government, and yet independent of all political control, with the function of "making the unseen facts intelligible to those who have to make the decisions."
In the opinion of the reviewer, the analytical portion of this book is far superior to the last or constructive part. After reading Mr. Lippmann's brilliant treatment of the shortcomings of public opinion, his solution of the problem seems hopelessly inadequate. Not that the measures which he proposes (which to a considerable extent means the extension of agencies and organizations already in operation) will not be valuable. It simply seems inconceivable that such fact-finding agencies could overcome the ever present obstacles in the way of the formation of real public opinion.