Current analysis of the public administration’s dysfunctions in Belgium bears remarkable resemblance to the analyses made by numerous authors and commissions in the past 150 years. In this article, we provide an overview of the major administrative reform initiatives in Belgium between 1848 and 2004. We focus on a number of books and reports from the period between the mid-19th century and the First World War, that were the foundation for many analyses in the 20th century. The interbellum saw the introduction of several reform commissions, and the appointment of a Royal commissioner who would introduce some of the most radical reforms ever in the Belgian civil service, the influence of which can still be felt today. After the Second World War, the focus of the reforms changed to efficiency, and later to economy. In the late 1980s, ‘citizen’ and ‘client’ became a central concept in the reform discourse. Even though the administrative reforms and reform initiatives in Belgium since 1848 are quite diverse, there is a striking consistency in the problems that have been identified as causes for administrative malfunctioning: the influence of politics and ministerial cabinets, the size of the administration, and the administration’s inefficiency.