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Administrative law


Administrative law is a branch of law regulating the powers, procedures, and acts of public administration. It applies to the organization, powers, duties, and functions of public officials and public agencies of all kinds. Its development has been concurrent with the modern growth in the functions of government and in bureaucracy and with the parallel expanding need for legal safeguards over the agencies and officials of government.

Of the powers delegated to administrative authorities by modern regulatory statutes, four types may be mentioned: (1) the rulemaking power, or the power to issue general rules and regulations having the force of law for the purpose of filling up the details of statutory policy; (2) the licensing power, or the power to grant or refuse, to renew, and to revoke licenses or permits that may be required by statute for the pursuit of such professions as law and medicine and the conduct of certain forms of business; (3) the investigatory power, or the power to require witnesses to testify and produce books, papers, and records for the purpose of acquiring the information needed for effective regulation; and (4) the directing power, or the power to issue, usually after notice and an opportunity to be heard, administrative orders by which a private party is required, in conformity with the governing statute, to do or refrain from doing specified things.

Whatever the public-service and control functions of the administrative system maybe, however, their performance depends upon the conduct of everyday auxiliary operations: the management of personnel, financing, planning, and so on. Accordingly, the law must also establish rules to authorize and govern these auxiliary and managerial operations and the relations that the administrative system is to bear, with respect to these operations, to other parts of the government.

In the broadest sense, the problem of administrative law is an aspect of the central problem of political theory: the reconciliation of authority and liberty. More specifically, the purposes of legal control of public administration are: (1) to establish administrative authorities and enable them to carry out public policies designed to protect the public interest and (2) to safeguard private interests against administrative arbitrariness or excess of power.

It is important to remember, however, that in the larger view each of these interests includes the other as a factor. The public interest includes the welfare of all members of the community; those who are regulated no less than those for whose protection regulation is undertaken. Accordingly, the public interest itself suffers if those who are regulated become victims of administrative oppression. Yet it is equally true that the private interest of those who are regulated includes in the long run the public interest. They may profit in the short run if the law renders ineffective those administrative efforts designed to prevent their exploitation of the public; but by the same token it may render ineffective their protection against forms of exploitation indulged in by others. The aim of administrative law is thus to attain a synthesis of public and private interests in terms of the social and economic circumstances and ideals of the age.

Administrative law has a valuable contribution to make as an instrument for controlling the bureaucracy. In social democratic regimes, political control and judicial control of administration are regarded as complementary but distinct. Political control is concerned with questions of policy and the responsibility of the executive for administration and expenditure. Judicial control is concerned with inquiring into particular cases of complaint. Administrative law does not include the control of policy by ministers or the head of state.

One of the principal objects of administrative law is to ensure efficient, economical, and just administration. A system of administrative law that impedes or frustrates administration would clearly be bad, and so, too, would be a system that results in injustice to the individual. But to judge whether administrative law helps or hinders effective administration or works in such a way as to deny just ice to the individual involves an examination of the ends that public administration is supposed to serve, as well as the means that it employs.

In this connection only the broadest generalities can be attempted. It can be asserted that all states, irrespective of their economic and political system or of their stage of development, are seeking to achieve a high rate of economic growth and a higher average income per person. They are all pursuing the goals of modernization, urbanization, and industrialization. They are all trying to provide the major social, services, especially education and public health, at as high a standard as possible. The level of popular expectation is much higher than in former ages. The government is expected not only to maintain order but also to achieve progress. There is a widespread belief that wise and well-directed government action can abolish poverty, prevent severe unemployment, raise the standard of living of the nation, and bring about rapid social development. People in all countries are far more aware than their forefathers were of the impact of government on their daily lives and of its potential for good and evil.

The growth in the functions of the state is lo be found in the more-developed and in the less-developed countries; in both old and new states; in democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian regimes. The movement is far from having reached its zenith. With each addition to the functions of the state, additional powershave been acquired by the administrative organs concerned, which may be central ministries, local, provincial, or regional governments, or special agencies created for a particular purpose.


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