The emergence in full flower, during the past twenty years, of the “positive state” has meant a great extension of administrative activity. This activity has been attacked as undemocratic by some persons whose concern was primarily with the programs carried out rather than with the means used to execute the programs. But the friends and even the originators of the programs have sometimes had an uncomfortable feeling that the traditional administrative mechanism has undemocratic tendencies. They have sought some means of democratizing the administrative process.
The most ambitious—indeed, the only thoroughgoing—attempt has been the use by the United States Department of Agriculture of the farmer committee system for the field service administration of agricultural price and income support programs, begun in 1933, and, since 1936, of the Agricultural Conservation Programs. This farmer committee system comprises over 100,000 farmers elected or appointed to serve on approximately 48 state, 3,000 county, and 29,000 community committees. The champions of this system believe that it decentralizes administration, putting authority and responsibility in the hands of those immediately affected by the programs. Further, it supplies new vitality to administration by drawing the clientele into the administrative processes. These objectives have imposed a significant structural requirement upon decentralized administration—the use of the committee system, a plural executive, in preference to a single administrator.