Administrative pluralism, like proportional representation or corporatism, is a fairly new phenomenon of the American representative sense. Its marked emphasis in recent years indicates that it will be an increasingly important form of representation in the American political system. J.D. Barnett has pointed out that Oregon was one of the first American states to undertake the representation of interests on administrative boards. By 1923 Oregon already had interest representation on three labor boards, the state board of conciliation and arbitration, the industrial welfare commission, the state industrial accident commission, the board of vocational education, the board of forestry, the livestock sanitary board, the lime board, and the pure-seed board.
In the 1920's and 1930's, advisory boards and committees," packed" with representatives chosen from the interest groups concerned, became quite common. By 1942, J.A.C. Grant could declare that the medieval gild had returned to America. Despite the opposition of a number of courts and a considerable body of public opinion, despite the incongruity of private power groups alongside American ideas of equality of opportunity and "trust-busting," a number of professions and trades had worked their way as groups into an official relationship to the government.
Physicians and lawyers, far enough ahead in the race to be within hailing distance of corporatism, were followed by barbers, beauticians, truck drivers, plumbers, and others. Though the groups lacked their own executive machinery, they had in many cases acquired the legal rights to "advise" the state governments on policy concerning their affairs, to regulate or curtail admission to their ranks, and to establish fair-trade or ethical standards for their membership.
A great flowering of interest representation occurred during World War II. Carl H. Monsees wrote in 1944 that "the participation on Industry Advisory Committees of national scope by businessmen to the extent of 7,000 for the War Production Board, nearly 4,000 for the Office of Price Administration, 1,200 for the War Food Administration, and over 100,000 on regional and local committees for the Office of Defense Transportation provides reason for the belief that the process is gradually bridging the gap that has been developing for some time between the government and private enterprise."
There were over 750 Industry Advisory Committees, each a representative cross-section of its industry. Each committee gave proportionate representation to small, medium, and large companies, the geographical distribution of the industry, the various product segments, and the trade association members and nonmembers. The committee members served without compensation and met in Washington under a Government Presiding Officer who was the key War Production Board executive and who administered the orders under which the industry was operating.
Both Monsees and Whitridge expressed admiration for this new technique of gaining increased support for governmental regulatory activities, but, as yet, the basic meaning of the development is little understood or appreciated. A few distinctions, and the opinions of labor, capital, and administrative officials on advisory representation, may outline more clearly the main problems and the future possibilities of the new kind of representation.
Administrative pluralism differs from corporatism in this respect: the role of the constituency under it in relation to the act of power is considerably less than under corporatism. Whereas the administrative arrangement gives the bulk of jurisdiction, initiative, legislation, administration, and enforcement to the administrative officer of the state, the corporate arrangement gives more of such elements to the private bodies with whom the state is dealing. It often happens that particular situations are difficult to place easily in either category but seem to combine elements of both. The distinction often depends on personality factors and the weakness or strength of the constituencies represented by the interests in relation to the government official's powers, position, and support from his superiors. It also happens that in a case where satisfactory public standards of policy have not been determined, and where there is a need for haste, a considerable responsibility for a legislative-administrative program is given to private groups and in a later phase of the program is recaptured by the governmental officers. The National Recovery Administration was a good example of this process, as were the district producer boards under the Bituminous Coal Acts (1935-7), the farmers' price-fixing co-operatives under the Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, and the associations of security dealers under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.
But even though the difference is often not clear, the distinction is important, for the end result of the difference in either case happens to be the difference between the bureaucratic state and the corporative state. Where the representation of the interested groups is sporadic, very limited, temporary, or based on insubstantial constituencies, the powers of the administrators on the government's side are correspondingly increased. Where the opposite is true, the important constructive and destructive social forces of corporate pluralism may operate more freely; the prestige of the interest groups is increased; the interest, attention, and participation of such groups are likely to be more wholehearted; and the trend toward group autonomy is more definite and apparent.
Labor historically has had difficulty in emerging from the openmarket manner of treating with industrial disputes, just as capital has. But in recent years, labors has increasingly brought pressure to bear for significant representation on all agencies dealing with economic problems. In 1939 both the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Unions declared in convention that they were entitled to adequate and controlled representation on any newly created war agencies. The A.F. of L. resolved that "on all War Boards, Labor shall be adequately represented by men appointed from the trade unions themselves." Both organizations, and the large independent unions as well, have been eager to furnish personnel for administrative bodies possessing important quasilegislative or administrative powers over economic affairs.
They reasoned that one of the greatest handicaps to labor in the past was the overrepresentation of business interests in important government posts and the tendency to define narrowly the sphere of labor competence in economic affairs. They pointed to the large number of "dollar-a-year men" who left their businesses for short periods to deal as government officials with matters directly concerning the future of their own industries. Such occurrences, the advocates of labor representation claimed, exaggerated beyond the bounds of justice the representation of employers' policies. In addition, when the treatment of economic affairs was believed to require some interest representation, unless the matter concerned labor directly beyond the shadow of a doubt, commercial and industrial interests were given the representation and labor's interests were ignored as being confined solely to labor disputes. The result has been, they go on to say, that capital has not only got what it wanted out of government but has gotten it in the name of the public interest. When labor would object, it would be condemned not as an interest counterpoised to the capitalistic interest, but as a special interest against the public interest.
Therefore, whenever it has had occasion to ask, organized labor has demanded a specific voice equal to that of the voice of capital. It has been reluctant to concede that it is represented whenever the government has appointed to "representative" positions men who are not the choice of the specific labor constituency. Why does the government pretend to recognize special group interests in setting up agencies, they ask, when it refuses to select representatives chosen immediately out of the organized labor groups who are actually the special interests groups so far as such groups exist at all? It is not enough to assume a "virtual" representation; there must be a real representation in terms of an actual constituency with power to select its representative.
In response to contentions that such explicit recognition of labor and other special interest groups would cause dissension and deadlock, the labor advocates claim they would be as willing to concede points as would the other special interests concerned. They assert further that most cases of dissension arose when it became obvious that the administrative body was consciously or unconsciously representing the side of capital. The fact that the representative of an organized labor constituency is ultimately responsible to an already existing organization and hierarchy means, in the first place, that whatever action he takes will be more co-operatively carried out by those upon whose good-will the ultimate effectiveness of laws depend in any event, his constituents. Second, such a relationship should present no more difficulties than those of a traditionally elected representative, whose constituency, by all the facts of political behavior, is a small clique of professional politicians, often dominated by special interests, although they operate in the name of the whole electorate.
On the other hand, capital and its management, having had more favorable experience with the methods of representation through "constitutional pluralism" and effective lobbying, have had more to lose and less to gain by adapting themselves to newer forms of representation. We have already indicated to some extent the inclination of the representatives of business organizations and trade associations to avoid plans providing for constituency representation by interests. Such groups might end by losing their other forms of representation in return solely for admission into unchartered territory. In litigation covering the assumption by private groups of governing responsibilities which have been delegated to them by the legislatures, several courts have tended to regard such a group as "an agency of the state" or a "quasi-public corporation." Thus, not only is corporatism, with its necessity for actively adjusting to opposing groups, a potential threat, but administrative pluralism as well may increase the "public" and therefore the "governable" character of commerce and industry.
The administrators' view of administrative pluralism is limited to the policies handed down to them. According to Avery Leiserson in his Interest Representation in Administrative Regulation, the large preponderance of opinion among professional administrators favors the elimination of explicit interest representation in all forms except that of advice. In his opinion, the ideal system of administrative pluralism would have the administrator appoint a committee representative of the interests affected to recommend the principal provisions of the proposal. After the committee completes its work, the administrator decides whether to approve or accept the recommendations of the committee, drafts the order, conducts public hearings, and promulgates the final order.
If the administrator's solution does not diminish intergroup tensions, the problem should be returned to the legislature for consideration, Leiserson believes. Then the legislature will not only be in possession of valuable information but will also know that the interest groups have been unable to work out the problem among themselves. The advisory committee representing interests would thus be Leiserson's limit of administrative pluralism.
Leiserson writes that, from the administrator's standpoint, the partisan structure of representation is likely to end either in deadlock among various interests, requiring the neutrals on the body to arbitrate, or in internal dissension. On issues of basic importance to their constituents, group representatives will not compromise. In any case, he regards the purpose of group representation as the elimination of tension situations within the existing law, and therefore he believes that the idea of more than advisory power would fail of its basic purpose.
The sphere of administration in which pluralism operates is so little known to the public that there have been few chances for any body of opinion to organize about particular solutions. The administrator is bound by the nature of his tasks to have an interest in some respects different from that of the public. He is interested in getting a particular job done and his tastes incline to uniformity of policy, direction, and administration. His aptitudes are often managerial rather than political. Attempts, therefore, to confine vigorous group interests within a bureaucratic compartment tend to satisfy neither the group nor the bureau. It might be disputed whether, in terms of the public interest, it were better to assign political tasks to a somewhat more political milieu, where the particular problem may be resolved not only in terms of its own inherent values but in terms of all the values competing within the total structure within which the groups concerned operate. If that conception of the public interest were carried out, the tendency then would be toward finding ways of representing groups through corporatism rather than through administrative pluralism.