Previous surveys of trends in public administration in this Review recorded developments in an era of prosperity and easy expansion. The present summary of the events of 1931 and 1932 discloses an abrupt and fundamental change in the underlying conditions affecting public activities, the effects of which have deeply influenced every aspect of governmental operations.
The depression places American government in an awkward dilemma. On the one hand is the tremendous shrinkage in productivity of taxes, proceeding far more rapidly than the corresponding reduction of expenditures; the resulting outcry against waste and extravagance in public expenditures and the rapid development of organized demands for retrenchment; the appearance of tax strikes in many communities, embarrassing public treasuries still more, and threatening the actual collapse of essential government services—eventually leading in some cases to a thoughtless and ill-advised attack on government itself, often by the very elements in the community who most violently deprecate “radical” criticism of our institutions. Faced with these situations, administrative expenditures have been substantially curtailed in the last two years in many directions, although few administrative services have been abandoned.