Social and Political Theory


Dealing with ethical dilemmas in public administration closely relates to the new paradigm of governance. Constantly emerging new realities and shifts in technological and ethical terms compel the administration to become more sensitive to the current public agenda. Therefore, the development of government transparency and removal of bureaucratic schemes is an evident example of the new reality which defines significant research and scientific questions that make public administrations think of the corresponding changes. However, before introducing these changes, as well as how they could be tackled in the present and the future, it is essential to trace the previous attempts of shaping the current image of American Public Administration. In the light of the development of ethical interaction between the new forms of administration and ethics, it is often problematic to show the challenges of ethics definition, control, and treatment. Moreover, there should be specific examples and implementation methods that can provide a new ethical approach to this dilemma. The current paper discusses the ethical dilemmas, namely lack of government transparency and absence of specific tools to solve it.

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Early Voices (1880s-1920s)

At the end of the nineteenth century, American Public Administration did not introduce the concept of creating a public service that should rely on future reforms of the American governance. It was not only borrowed from the European concepts but also was fond of introducing such systems in the forms of enlightenment. The first steps in developing a modern state of governance in the public sphere in the United States refer to the period following the Civil War. At the core of this issue was the fight to restrict the bureaucratic systems for encouraging the political party members with government job appointments to develop a civil service system, in which the status of the government is not identified. The reforms, therefore, should be the first step to changes in ethical, economical, moral, and political terms.

The administrative affairs in the late nineteenth century have become more difficult. In 1887, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Jackson have pledged for new forms of governing the public sector in the United States. Specifically, Woodrow Wilson introduced the new essay in which he focused on the importance of administrative studies intervention. Presenting public administration as a science was a significant step, because it provided an alternative vision on the political truth. Specifically, “Wilson wanted the study of public administration to focus not only on personnel problems, as many reforms of the time had advocated, but also on organization and management in general”. Therefore, the emergence of public administration as a science has expanded its functions, importance, and created new solutions and ways for solving the current dilemmas in ethical and economic terms.

The New Deal to Mid-Century (1930s-1950s)

The conservative business interests have prevailed over the governmental ones, and these considerations should be analyzed with greater detail. The alterations and shifts in politics in the public sector related to the population and economic growth. The new era of neo-Confederacy had emerged in the 1930s. According to MacLean, “it might explore how the historical mythology of neo-Confederacy, understood as retrospective romanticization of the Old South and the secessionist project, has offered many themes of use to a longstanding dream among conservative northern Republicans of rolling back the New Deal” (p. 2). As a result, the story relates to the times when white politicians strived to impose pressure on the civil rights of the black community, as well as free private property, and democratic development of the marketing process. Once again, the ethical problems deal with the governmental transparency, particularly insufficient overt discussion of ethical dilemmas in the public sphere. As an example, in 1938, the supporters of the conservative movement made use of the mythology of the Reconstruction and Civil War to oppose the second stage of the new Deal, with the emphasis on the new challenges that might be encountered. Due to the sophisticated nature of the human resource management in the public sector, civil service experimentation in the United States could be affecting the personnel policy framework both at the local and federal levels. In this respect, Battaglio and Condrey have explored four models of human resource management service that are utilized as organizing points for discussion of six state and local cases. The scholars have also focused on the reform and design of the civil system to suggest that the update of the strategic framework of the civil service systems could be more effective as compared to the radical reform.

JFK to Civil Service Reform (1960s-1970s)

In the 1960s and 1970s, the governments started relying on developing new tools, such as loans, contracts, and grants, which contradicted Wilson’s theory. In contrast to the delivery of services by bureaucratic systems, these instruments were controlled through partnerships and incentives with non-governmental actors than those which operated through governmental administration with hierarchical authority. With the challenges caused by traditional tactics, the public administration had to introduce new methods and approaches for improving accountability and effectiveness. Specifically, instead of centralized systems, which offered standardized services, many of these services placed public agencies in sophisticated interdependent relationships.

The development of human resource management reform in the United States has been considered a new phenomenon. Before this reform, the precursors of the civil service contradicted the conversion of votes in the workplace that was typical of politics in the end of the nineteenth century. During the early nineteenth century, the struggle for the equal rights was introduced. Currently, the civil right reform of 1978 has been reconsidered with regard to the performance issue. Specifically, Conrey and Battaglio state that “rather than civil service protection being the solution for improving government performance, they are routinely portrayed as problems that diminish government performance” (p. 425). Therefore, congruent with these reforms, the problem of bureaucratic challenges can be solved with proper management. Another important aspect is that radical reformers could consider civil service protection for the sake of good management.

Perry has also analyzed the contribution of the civil service reform in improving the sphere of public administration in the United States. The author has concluded that the development of performance appraisal, along with clarification of appeal procedures and merit pay programs, is essential for the public sector because it provided a firm ground for further evaluation of the administrative policies for the last three decades. As soon as the service management and regulation have been implemented, the American Public Administration has been more open to solving such ethical dilemmas as lack of transparency in governmental decision-making.

Reagan to Reinvention (1980s-1990s)

Due to the fact that partnership for welfare and other social programs were popular in the 1990s, the government position was still inaccurate. The more implicit tools gained significance, the less traditional theories guided in managing the problematic conventions of public administrations. Such tools were more sophisticated to control. Therefore, the government was struggling for managing them without reassurance of intellectual framework that a theory of administration presented for directly controlled programs. Introducing a confirmed issue on the scale of management is ambiguous because the governmental agency operates its documents in accordance with expenditures. Furthermore, the complete financial implications for certain implicit tools, such as loan and tax programs, do not demonstrate standardized budget scorekeeping. Policymakers, therefore, could focus on the governmental programs without attention paid to cost issues in the budget. At the same time, at the end of the twentieth century, implicit method had dominated in the field of federal administrative action. Specifically, Ketti notes, “Lester M. Salamon…estimated that at least 83 percent of all federal financial activity occurred using indirect tools like contracts, grants, loans and regulations” (p. 51). Therefore, the financial challenges and shifts should also be regarded to improve governmental transparency and take control of the financial operations.

Present and Future (2000s-2020s)

The present impact of the reinvented government on the paradigms in ethics defines the new reforms in the sphere of the evolutionary process. In general, they develop important dimensions of the outcomes of the current ethics. The shifts from the Weberian model to the current picture of the administration introduce new ethical concerns. To enlarge on the issue, the government is involved in public and private matters and, therefore, the split between the responsibilities in public and private sphere is inaccurate. The differentiation of public and private sector was also important because the government should ensure the community welfare by proving it concern with the fate and problems of each American citizen. Nonetheless, lack of reliable data and evidence for the activities, conducted at the public level, often led to the emergence of the bureaucratic schemes. The American presidents, therefore, have made incredible efforts to foster democratic moods in this context.

Generally speaking, it is important to emphasize that modern government ethics appears to have similar purposes as the reform changes that were presented a century ago. To enlarge on this issue, the major purpose was to reduce the bureaucratic activities and provide a solid platform for fare and transparent activities in the public sectors. The current ethics movement, nonetheless, has a different perspective. Programs and structures, including ethics boards and committees, ethical educational programs, agencies officers, and administrative officials, along with the development of ethical codes and financial systems show the way the governmental agencies struggle with public corruption. It also defines the contemporary approach to controlling the current corrupt schemes. From the normative and philosophical perspective of the governmental policies, the ethics movements are essential because they define the evident difference between the role of universities in shaping reform movement, as well as their role in the ethics management. Academic and educational programs, especially public administration approaches, were significant in the governmental reform development. Therefore, the majority of influential and prestigious universities resorted to such programs. The development of the political science, therefore, should be related to the social and ethical dimensions. As a result, the policy studies of ethics should rely on deductive and philosophical tendencies which are supported by policy and social science.

Overall, the power of ethics in the governmental sphere can significantly foster the development of transparent reporting, which has been integrated at the beginning of the twenty-first century. While looking back to the past, it is also possible to provide exact forecast for the future. Specifically, the public administration in the United States, which specifically relates to political, economic, financial, and democratic issues, should be oriented on effective human resources management that would eradicate such problems as social injustice, restrictions to civil rights, poverty, and social inequality. Social science research supports the idea that ethics is both philosophical and normative phenomenon that introduces ethics and defines how different governmental officials could tackle the problem. Currently, the primary accent should be made on solving the problem of public corruption which could be eliminated by means of providing specific considerations for the public officials who require punishment and who are determined to provide the corresponding sanctions. Second, governmental transparency will also contribute to the problem of human resource management and performance appraisal. The core of the problem consists in the absence of reliable information regarding the statistics proving the evidence example of the corruption procedures. The current media report can only state how prosecutors or journalists commit outlaw actions and neglect civil rights of the U.S. citizens. The local public officials, therefore, should be more conscious of these ethical concerns and introduce the corresponding changes.

In-depth overview of the development of the public administration in the United States has strongly been associated with its orientation, stakeholders, political, and economic situations. As such, the very emergence of the public administration as a governmental agency related to the necessity of introducing the corresponding controlling bodies which could solve problems of social injustice, poverty, and many other issues. The idea of introducing public administration as a science was an important contribution because it allowed for expanding its educational horizons, compelling politicians and sociologist resort both to traditional and implicit tool of managing diverse governmental problems. All these developments were directed at fighting with corruption and bureaucratic schemes. Such an approach was an essential requirement to increasing governmental transparency and reducing economic and political problems. The philosophical dimension of ethics in the public administration has taken its roots in the beginning of the twentieth first century, when the primary focus has been made on democracy and equality. Overall all these shifts could be essential for further improvements in the field.


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