What Is Merit?

Topics: Government, Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, Kentucky Pages: 7 (2656 words) Published: May 1, 2006
The word Merit can be defined as "the state or quality of being deserving or worthy of, to earn by service, (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)." Before you can understand the magnitude of the merit system, you have to know systems in which the merit system extended from and how they came about. If looking at the merit system now you would be able to read and see that, the Merit system is designed to provide a fair and equitable personnel management system, which recruits, develop and classify employees. It also assures the fair treatment of employees and applicants within personnel. Under the merit system, personnel decisions are based on specified standards, qualifications, and performance (Cayer 44). Merit hiring is an attempt to end the practice of hiring political friends and loyalists for jobs as a reward for their political service, in which this practice is related to a system known as patronage, which was embraced by George Washington and other political figures today as well. Patronage is the power of a government official or leader to make appointments and offer favors. Once in office, a politician can use patronage to build a loyal following. Though practiced at all levels of government, patronage is most often associated with a lot of big cities or large states. Politicians always criticize the civil service system, saying they much prefer the patronage structure where they have real control and real power over the people who work for them. The spoils system involves political activity by public employees in support of their party and the employees' removal from office if their party loses the election. The spoils system was the practice of rewarding supporters with government jobs. Often the jobs were given base on personal friendship and didn't take into account any actual merit or ability to perform the job.

In a historical overview of performance based government or personnel systems you could date back as far as our nations first President. It was George Washington and his men of courage that really started this performance based government system in my mind. During President Washington's time in office, it was very common for the men who displayed excellence on the battlefield to be granted high-ranking government positions. This was at a time in our country when the war and battle heroes were placed on pedestals, in addition these men were the educated men who led us into battle. So in the public mind, George Washington and his men of courage were ideal for these positions based on their performance in battle. This system was brought out in the movie, "The Patriot", with Mel Gibson being a hero in battle, but was also looked at as a political figure with a voice in the senate. Then the performance-based government took a wide turn for change with the system that President Andrew Jackson introduced called the spoils system. "To the victor goes, the spoils." This was the type of government that was favored by Jackson and typically meant that if you support my political affiliation and I am victorious, at that point you will be taken care of in return. To an extent, I agree with taking care of people who support you along the way, however I disagree with placing political supporters in very important government, political, and partisan positions. So in the early years of our nations government, we were ran by presidency that favored performance based style of government and then by one that necessarily did not favor a performance based government. We live in an era today that uses campaigns, debates, commercials, primaries and elections to inform you of the individual, who is seeking an office and what party he or she is represent. Once this person is in office there are certain things that he or she has the power to do and not to do. Congress passed the Civil Service Act of 1883 also known as the Pendleton Act, which established the first Civil Service Commission to guard against...
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