spoils system

the system or practice in which public offices with their emoluments and advantages are at the disposal of the victorious party for its own purposes.
[1830-40, Amer.]

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or patronage system

In U.S. politics, the practice by political parties of rewarding partisans and workers after winning an election.

Proponents claim it helps maintain an active party organization by offering supporters jobs and contracts. Critics charge that it awards appointments to the unqualified and is inefficient because even jobs unrelated to public policy change hands after an election. In the U.S., the Pendleton Civil Service Act (1883) was the first step in introducing the merit system in the hiring of government workers. The merit system has almost completely replaced the spoils system. See also civil service.

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also called  patronage system 

      practice in which the political party winning an election rewards its campaign workers and other active supporters by appointment to government posts and by other favours. 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. A change in party control of government necessarily brings new officials to high positions carrying political responsibility, but the spoils system extends personnel turnover down to routine or subordinate governmental positions.

      The term was in use in American politics as early as 1812, but it was made famous in a speech made in 1832 by Senator William Marcy (Marcy, William L) of New York. In defending one of President Andrew Jackson's appointments, Marcy said, “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy.” In Marcy's time, the term spoils referred to the political appointments, such as cabinet offices or ambassadorships, controlled by an elected official.

      Arguments in favour of the spoils system defend it as a means of maintaining an active party organization by offering loyal workers occupational rewards. It also guarantees the ruling party loyal and cooperative employees. Supporters of the practice claim this results in more effective government because the appointed officeholders have a stake in helping the elected official to carry out his policies and fulfill his campaign promises.

      On the other hand, the spoils system too often resulted in appointments that were based strictly on the needs of the party, without regard for the appointee's qualifications or ability to do the job. Extensive changes in positions that did not affect government policy, such as President Benjamin Harrison's (Harrison, Benjamin) changing 31,000 postmasters in one year, also led to inefficiency.

      The spoils system flourished unchallenged in the United States from the 1820s until after the Civil War, at which time the system's abuses prompted civil-service reforms designed to cut down the number of government posts filled by appointment and to award jobs on the basis of merit. The Pendleton Federal Civil Service Act of 1883 provided the initial basis for the adoption of the merit system in the recruitment of federal officials, and by the late 20th century merit systems had almost completely replaced the spoils system at the federal, state, and city levels of government.

      In addition to designating the awarding of public offices to party supporters, the term has come to refer to other abuses of political power designed to benefit and enrich the ruling party. These practices may involve, for example, siphoning public funds to the party by contracting with party contributors to handle public projects at inflated rates or by granting public franchises to party contributors at very low prices. The term also includes favouring supporters in areas like the prosecution of law cases, the placement of insurance policies, or the levying of taxes.

      Although spoils system is an American political term, the practice of distributing public offices to reward supporters and strengthen a government is and has been common in many other countries as well.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Spoils-System —   [ spɔɪlzsɪstɪm; englisch »Beutesystem«], Bezeichnung für das in den USA seit dem 19. Jahrhundert bestehende, besonders von Präs. A. Jackson weiterentwickelte Gewohnheitsrecht, einträgliche Parteiämter oder staatliche Verwaltungspositionen mit… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Spoils-System — Spoils Sys|tem, auch Spoils|sys|tem [ spɔilzsistəm] das; <aus gleichbed. engl. spoils system, eigtl. »Beutesystem«, zu engl. spoil »Beute, Raub«, dies über altfr. espoille aus lat. spolia, vgl. ↑Spolien> (in den Vereinigten Staaten übliche) …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • spoils system — spoils sy·stem loc.s.m.inv. ES ingl. {{wmetafile0}} TS polit. metodo di appropriazione delle cariche e dei posti di potere da parte del partito risultato vincente in un confronto elettorale {{line}} {{/line}} DATA: 1997. ETIMO: ingl. spoils… …   Dizionario italiano

  • spoils system — ☆ spoils system n. the system or practice of regarding and treating appointive public offices as the booty of the successful party in an election, to be distributed, with their opportunities for profit, among party workers …   English World dictionary

  • Spoils system — Der Begriff Spoils System bezeichnet in der US amerikanischen Politik die informelle Praxis, dass der Gewinner einer Wahl seine Unterstützer mit Arbeitsstellen in der öffentlichen Verwaltung belohnt. Das spoils system ist auch ein Anreiz für die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Spoils system — In the politics of the United States, a spoils system is an informal practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for… …   Wikipedia

  • Spoils system — Système des dépouilles Le système des dépouilles (spoils system) repose sur le principe selon lequel un nouveau gouvernement doit pouvoir compter sur la loyauté partisane des fonctionnaires, et donc remplacer ceux qui sont en place par des… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • spoils system — spoils′ sys tem n. gov the practice in which nonelective public offices are filled with supporters of the victorious political party …   From formal English to slang

  • spoils system — noun the system of employing and promoting civil servants who are friends and supporters of the group in power • Ant: ↑merit system • Hypernyms: ↑system, ↑system of rules …   Useful english dictionary

  • spoils system — A system under which appointment to public office is a reward for political work, with resulting evils of inefficiency, extravagance, interruption of public business by office seekers, corruption of the electoral franchise, and political… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

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