Date of Award


Degree Type



Urban Studies

First Advisor

Stivers, Camilla

Subject Headings

Public administration -- United States, Democracy -- United States, Public administration, Legitimacy, Administrative state, Anti-government, Constitutional democracy, Electronic books. local


The public administration literature is inundated with books and articles despairing about the legitimacy crisis in the field. There have been numerous bases proposed for legitimizing the administrative state, including expertise, virtue or public service, and leadership and vision. Yet the issue remains contested, and the lack of agreement has wide reaching implications. One under-examined implication is the role that this tenuous legitimacy has in weakening the administrative state's ability to temper anti-government sentiment. This dissertation explores the connections and patterns in the ideologies, actions, and philosophical foundations of strongly held views that the administrative state is an illegitimate democratic institution. These domestic anti-government ideologies are illuminated through case studies of the sovereign citizens movement, the modern militia movement, and the patriot movement. By studying these groups it becomes clear that the anti-government ideology is, at least partly, a result of these groups interactions with the administrative state. The implication of these cases is that the current legitimacy arguments are ineffective in countering these strongly held anti-government sentiments. This research argues that in order for citizens to, not only believe that the administrative state is legitimate, but to experience this, the administrative state must be legitimized in practice not in theory. For public administrators legitimizing the administrative state must include a more direct relationship with citizens in the practice of expertise, virtue and public service, and leadership and vision. Through this practice, not a tenuous theory, public administrators may be able to start repairing the relationship that they have with citizens and truly legitimize the administrative state