IN ENGLAND the civil servant is usually the silent servant. He is rarely heard of except when for election purposes the public is assured that he costs too much. The public is then reminded of the time-honored riddle as to why they (the civil servants) resemble the fountains in Trafalgar Square, and the answer "because they play from ten to four" is generally accepted as both witty and convincing. The public forgets the equally amusing discovery of an intelligent observer that the British Empire was really governed by a clerk in a back room in the Colonial Office. The truth is between the two, but probably much nearer the latter than the former.
Government is not a state of affairs, it is action, and action means that things are done. Without a civil service, government would be paralyzed. The civil service is not a luxury but a necessity. Without it government could not function and civilization would stop. The function of the civil service has, however, undergone a change, a change which is inevitable because the whole conception and functions of government have changed. It used to be the proud boast of the civil servant that he decided nothing, he only executed orders. For that reason he could never be attacked. The responsibility was the responsibility of his political chief alone. That is still the theory; but the civil service, like every other organization, has had to adapt itself to new circumstances, and the theory is no longer rigidly true.
The responsibility of the civil service has altered because the functions of government have altered. Government is no longer something other than the people who are governed. It has become simply an aspect of their activity. Authority circulates in the body politic like blood in the individual. The stoppage of that circulation means death. Authority flows up to the political leaders from the mass: it feeds back through the organs of the civil service. Taxes must be collected, the expenditure of
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