Federalist Nos. 67–77 How Would Publius Envision the Civil Service Today?


Linda J. Bilmes is the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is a leading expert in budgeting and public finance. She has held senior positions in government, including assistant secretary and chief financial officer in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and currently serves on the National Parks Advisory Board. She is the coauthor of The People Factor: Strengthening America by Investing in Public Service (2009).


Federalist Nos. 67–77 offer a strong defense of the “energetic executive” embedded in the new constitution, which is perhaps best captured in Alexander Hamilton’s famous conclusion that “the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” This essay places this basic definition into historical context by reviewing the erosion of the national government’s emphasis on public duty as a prerequisite for effectiveness. Reading widely across the Federalist Papers, the author argues that the founders would be taken aback by the national government’s sheer scale and complexity and would strongly restate their basic principles of a government well executed.