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The Ethics in Public Administration: A Literature Review

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Literature Review

Within my first section of this literature review, I aim to provide an overview of findings already conducted in regards to my topic of ethics in Public Administration. More specifically, how ethics have evolved in recent times in fields of Public Administration. Familiarizing my audiences with the system of the old public service in regards of ethics and moral decision making. The next section of this literature review aims to offer information regarding the new era of public service of ethics. Showcasing the internal changes and viewpoints of these systematic changes. Lastly, the final section will examine the need for such ethics and the significance of progress in these fields based upon a new ethical outlook on Public Administration.

Ethics in the Old Public Service

The National Performance Review (NPR), is an agency that aims to reform the functionality of the federal government. This agency is driven by motivation to create a government that works better and costs citizens less. According to Riccucci : “The NPR fails to account for critical differences between the government and private sectors, and, in particular, ignores the constitutional premise that government is based on a rule of law and not market driven mechanisms.” (172) (Riccucci, 2001). This quote exemplifies the old system of Public Administration, a practice focused more on market driven mechanisms and personal interest compared to serving populations and ethics. Although this old system of management and administration started in the later years of 1960, criticism and doubt have followed it since then. Much criticism coming from the NPR itself, defending the old style of these positions (Riccucci,2001).

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The NPR went as far as to claim that bureaucrats are good people, trapped in a bad system. Ethics can be somewhat entrapped in positions such as these, even with the utilization of moral administrators, the system will always overrule. Implementation of the old form of public management and administration deems issues with the system. The approach taken prior to 1960’s promoted hasty decisions that disregarded the populations being served. Rather personal gains were first priority in these years. Ethics were not a thing of the past, rather a new futuristic movement. The importance of integrating diversity in research methods for administrators is essential. This article was not necessarily an experiment with variables and so forth, rather a comparison between the two forms of management (Riccucci, 2001).

Ethics in the Old Public Service

Traditional Public Administration was concerned more with trusting governments, rather than questioning them. During this era, prior to 1960’s, the public viewed highly of government officials and corresponding decisions. However, this old form of public administration thought of the public in either three ways; voters, clients, and constituents. Little sympathy or empathy was given to their situations or circumstances. Little guidance was given on elevating issues, rather just band aiding them. The old forms of public Administration were regarded with little ethics and posited more political solutions and governmental abidance (Bryson, Crosby, Bloomberg, 2014).

Bryson, Crosby, and Bloomberg listed several related topics and compared them to traditional Public Administration, New Public Management, and lastly the emerging approach (current). Some of these issues included role of politics, role of citizenship, key objectives, and key values. By glancing at each category, it is easy to conclude that traditional forms of Public Administration had goals of efficiently rather than effectiveness. Goals that are politically driven, rather than public driven. This illustrates that personal or political goals were override what is the publics best interest. This reveals to audiences that little ethics took place in this traditional form, which more than likely can correlate to the corrupt decision makings of several positions during this time span (Bryson, Crosby, Bloomberg, 2014 ).

Public values should certainly be the first concern for those in such positions. This requires the most basic form of ethics. These positions are created to enact policies on those in need, not look upon the government to fulfil each distinct issue wholeheartedly. The traditional form of PA represents a system for the government, not the public. Efficiency is not always better than effectiveness, and suffering populations deserve humanity, not politics. This old system hindered necessary changes, which can be concluded in research questions towards the end of this journal. Public interest should always be above governmental interest, because majority should rule in Public Administration (Bryson, Crosby, Bloomberg, 2014).

Ethics in the Old Public Service

Changes in view of governmental duties is what promoted a new reformation of Public Administration. Peters and Pieere claimed that the public started viewing states and governments as being hollow. This distrust in previous forms is what led to the development of the new system. A system for the people, and not for the government. This idea led to the terminology of having governance without being governed, an ideal form of Administration. Networking highly influenced several changes within these systems. Often, collaborations were utilized between government workers and non. This led to the re-evaluation of public needs over governmental ones (Peters, Pierre,1998).

Prior ideas of governance without government never emerged, mainly because it was unheard of. Government entities were the ruling bases over all decision making. Even those in Public Administration had little say or command over what these entities claimed. Compared to traditional ethical structures, it is easy to say that those working such positions have a longer leash to enforce policies of their own desire. This allocates a more difficult decision making process. That is, since no one is telling you which decision to make, you must use your own accord and judgment. Ethics are certainly more prioritized and woven in areas of Public Administration these days. Not only has the system changed into a more personalized one, built on the foundation of public interest, but workers either will incorporate good ethics, or bad ethics (some worse than prior governmental rulings) (Peters, Pierre,1998).

Ethics in New Public Service

From the previous section, we can conclude that traditional forms of Public Administration were not heavily influenced by ethics. This traditional scheme of things is often to blame for the current state of such positions and the stigma geared at governmental jobs in general. Denhardt, & Denhardt, posited that the government belongs to its citizens, and not the other way around. These authors also concluded that traditional Public Service positions geared the boat, rather than rowed it. Gearing is different than rowing, because it is aimed a certain way, regardless of the path or other circumstances. But rowing is time consuming and well planned. Although rowing is good, even a better method should be used. Which is abandoning the government boat, and focus on the needs of people, for that is what this job intended to do, even with such a loss in focus (Denhardt Denhardt,2000).

Some major characteristics of this new Public Service system includes: civil societies, organizational humanities, community, and the help of several postmodernist public administrations. These postmodern workers contributed in creating a climate that makes sense in modern times. These efforts deserve merit for the creation of a more ethic based practice for Public Administration. Serve, rather than steer was a major ideology of this newly implanted system. Serving populations should be the guiding principle in positions such as these. According to Denhardt, & Denhardt : “In this process, the role of government is transformed from one of controlling to one of agenda setting, bringing the proper players to the table and facilitating, negotiating, or brokering solutions to public problems (often through coalitions of public, private, and non-profit agencies)”(p.553). Traditional systems consisted of only government influence and efficiency. The new form encourages ethical decision making, and the merging of government and agencies to figure out solutions (Denhardt, & Denhardt,2000).

Ethics in New Public Service

According to Maesschalck: “here is a significant shift in public service ethical standards and, subsequently, in (un)ethical behavior” (p.465). This article goes against must of the other reviewed on this new form of administration. Apparently, these new designs are enabling many scandals, although this is what was trying to be fixed with the new design. However, every plan is not scam proof. This article spoke about the traditional method and how this left Public Administration with organization and so forth, because the government overruled all ethical decision making. It left little room to skew one way or the other, it had consistency with only one person making all ethical decisions ( Messchalck,2004).

Typology is already in place that helps public servants in ethic decision making. It describes many climates and actions and behaviors to take in many situations. However, the ethics of this book are even questionable. Ethics vary deeply from person to person, making it somewhat difficult to utilize typology such as this. Not every situation has the same variables and choosing to simply always go with what this novel claims would be ridiculous ( Messchalck,2004).

Ethics in New Public Service

Two varying oppositions to this new system, has left me unclear as to the progress in this new system. If it has enhanced the ethics of this system, or decreased. This following article will hopefully clear this confusion. Kothoff, et al. stated :” On the one hand there is the view which can be summarized in two statements: “Moral dimensions and criteria can be applied to all kinds of organizations”36 and “Business ethics and public sector ethics share basic values and norms (9). This article, just as the one above, spoke heavily on these ideas of serving not steering. This point is very specific to the new form of Public Serving (Kolthoff, Huberts, Heuvel,2006).

The idea of serving not steering is very distinct to this system. It enables a wide range of ethical principles to be established. For example, it models the type of attitudes that these jobs permits. A straight and clear focus of the problem and the right ethical principles to manage. Serving is certainly the job of someone in Public Administration. Serving populations in need is a ethic choice clearly Kolthoff, Huberts, Heuvel,2006).

There is a direct correlation between increased ethics and this new system. Many components of the traditional system were altered to create a system based on justice and ethics. In our world, today, just relying on governments to do these jobs would be a bit absurd. The utilization of two decision makers is what makes this new system more fit for modern times (Kolthoff, Huberts, Heuvel,2006).

Need for Ethics in Public Administration

It is very essential for people in Public Administration to have some sort of ethical standings. Because without this, personal interests tend to blind them, and necessary work does not get completed. This article speaks highly on issues of external goods and internal goods. Ethics being regarded as an internal good, because it has no physical shape, however, it is internally invested in whatever getting. It adds value to a company when they base their teachings on some form of ethical principles (Cooper,1987).

By glancing at normative ethics throughout this system, a certain patter form. Although, it is not clear and organized according to this article. These ethics need some polishing up, however, they should not be removed in any case. Without understanding the internal good within these systems leave Public Administration without a good ethical standing. The internal good is what drives systems like this and a firm understanding is the only way to work as part of the team (Cooper,1987).

Need for Ethics in Public Administration

In order for ethics to be achieved, there are other fundamental components that must also be met. One of which is collaboration and a clear focus. All members must be on the same team and have the similar goals and ethical backgrounds for anything to get accomplished. Order of importance is only one realm where ethics takes place. Public Administrators must use their intelligence to determine which programs are crucial and necessary at that. These decisions should be made by examining the needs of the people, and deciding which policy or programs should come first dependent on need (Cooper,2004).

The book Ethics for Bureaucrats: An Essay on Law and Values by John Rohr is often utilized in positions of Public Administration. This book lays the framework for ethics in many jobs in public service. It lays down the rights under the Constitution and promotes justice and fairness to all involved. Books such as this make ethics somewhat more tangible for those with opposing differences. Public Administrators should use these books when deciding on tough issues, but should also utilize their own set of principles alike (Cooper,2004).

Need for Ethics in Public Administration

Networking and collaborations can cause many issues for Public Administration. Often, these positions call for work with several outside facilities. Whether it be non-profit sectors or not, many organizations incorporate different ethical standings. These differences can make work very difficult because beliefs on certain issues are diverse, and what may be ethical fine for one is not always for another (O’Toole,1997).

These issues just don’t seem to gain any recognition to either scholars or practitioners alike. However, the main focus is being overlooked, which is correctly serving the people you are in charge of. networks should be working on this same goal, no matter the agency. Serving is the job at hand, not properly (O’Toole,1997).

Need for Ethics in Public Administration

Throughout this Literature Review, many issues were stated about ethics and what practitioners can do to enhance the ethical standards in these positions. Little effort was suggested on how the public can also reach such standards. Because, let’s face it, policies are nothing without cooperation from the public. It takes a great deal of ethical standards to enact such rules, but the public must meet these standards as well (King,et al.,1998).

There are several ways in which one can increase cooperation and participation from the public. One of these suggestions is engaging the public, find out what programs would benefit communities. This will get the attention of the public, by showing a general interest in helping them. Many of these people are oppressed or impoverished, so often times, their needs go untouched. Public Administrators should serve these people without being bias, and this will motivate good behavior from the public (King,et al.,1998).


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