Values in Public Administration and Governance in America
By Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D* - Exclusive to ACD
Saturday, December 29th, 2018 @ 4:41PM
What values inform the actions of those in government and public administration today?
George Washington gave a charge to the Framers at the beginning of the American Experiment. He said to the Framers when they began their work,
Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair;
the event is in the hand of God….
How far has America come in realizing George Washington’s vision? Or has the nation drifted irreparably off course?
How can one characterize the current political and governmental landscape in America?
Here are some factors that some might see as characterizing that landscape:
- The emergence of diametrically opposing political perspectives and goals that has made enemies of friends and family members and that has resulted in the sowing of pockets of distrust and animosity throughout society
- The proliferation of threats, challenges, and problems confronting the nation that have a level of complexity, including scientific and technological complexity, that is threatening to overwhelm and “snooker” citizens, as well as those who are in roles of public responsibility
- The challenge to even those with exceptionally high IQs to study and comprehend the nature and scope of the problems, threats, and challenges that face the nation and then take action based on that understanding
- Information and experiential overload are becoming impediments to understanding and action
- The growing susceptibility of those in roles of public responsibility to groupthink, social pressure, denial, fixation on inadequate problem definitions, and the propensity for many to parrot the views of others without understanding the biases that may characterize those views or the lack of knowledge and understanding underlying them
- The abeyance of logic, reason, and common sense, as well as humanity
- The widespread infection of derangement syndromes of all kinds, including the sheer hatred many have for those who hold opposite views
- The widespread nature of disingenuousness and propensity for engaging in falsehoods or covering up the truth or engaging in self-dealing
- A growing trend for those in both the non-profit and private sectors to act in ways that make major contributions to the public good
- The decision by many who have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution and abide by the rule of law to do neither
What would be a far more positive and healthy landscape look like? How might it be characterized? Here are some possible ways that one might describe a more positive and promising landscape:
- Those in roles of public responsibility would act in ways to uphold the Constitution and would abide by the rule of law. If they thought that the law should be changed, they would do so through the processes that are Constitutionally in place
- Those in roles of public responsibility would act in a way that contributed to the public good; a value-based commitment to acting in the public interest would fuel their actions. Increasingly this would also characterize the actions of those in the private sector
- People would be inclined to openly discuss their perspectives with others. There would be sufficient trust and tolerance for different ideas that people would not be inclined to treat others with hostility
- Those in roles of public responsibility, including those in the media, would add the skills and attributes of educators, analysts, and investigative journalists to their wheelhouse so that they would be in a better position of helping the public gain a greater in depth understanding of problems, threats, and challenges and of helping them understand as well the range of policies and approaches that might be taken to address those.
- Those who have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution and abide by the rule of law would take their oaths seriously, respect the rule of law, and respect due process under the law for all
- Those in roles of public responsibility would develop their understanding of and commitment to serving in the public interest and advancing the public good.
The Framers’ efforts resulted in the creation of a republic that was based on fairness; justice; representative governance with each citizen having one vote; a balance of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government; and the primacy of the Constitution and adherence to due process and the rule of law, including the noble notion that no one is above the law. This paper is intended to help lay out a road map that might serve to keep the nation on the course that the Framers intended. The paper is one person’s view of how that course may be kept righted and how this experiment involving a government for, by, and of the people might be sustained into the future so that the aspirations that the Founders had for themselves and this nation can continue to be ever more fully realized.
This paper complements two works by Gerald E. Caiden on the topic of “maladministration”: “What is Maladministration?” (1967) and “Maladministration Revisited” (2016). Rather than focusing primarily on behaviors in organizations, the present author provides a conceptual framework that includes as a corner stone a value-based definition of what it means to act in the public interest. Behaviors are viewed in terms of their relationship to “acting in a way that maximizes the public interest”. A so-called “Ethics Map” (Gordon, 1978) is provided as a framework for comprehending a large universe of different kinds of behaviors in which those in roles of responsibility in the public sector have been known to engage.
Based on the categories found in the “Ethics Map”, actions are “ethical” and “value-based” if they are in keeping with “acting in the public interest”. The author has defined “acting in the public interest” as “acting in a way that maximizes the values of life, health, and freedom”. In doing so, one is acting in a way that reflects the values of those who crafted the nation’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and its Preamble. The latter is viewed as a kind of value-based “mission statement” for the nation.
A major distinction between public and private sector ethics is drawn between the actions of those in the public sector and those in the private sector. Those in the public sector are seen as being duty-bound and obligated to act in ways that maximize the public interest and foster the public good and that those in the private sector, while not similarly obligated, are seen as being free to act in ways that contribute to the public good. The opportunity for the realization of the vision of the Founders arises when those in both the public and private sectors are contributing in their own ways to the public good and hence the betterment of all.
This paper complements three works by Gerald E. Caiden on the topic of “maladministration”: “What Really is Public Maladministration?” (1967), “Maladministration Revisited (2016), and “Public Maladministration Revisited” (2017). In “What is Public Maladministration”, Caiden provides an extensive list of bureaupathologies that constitute behaviors typifying maladministration. The most egregious of these kinds of behaviors have also been featured in a bibliography that Rachel Ehrenfeld (1997, 1998) prepared on the topic of corruption. Rather than focusing primarily on behaviors in organizations, the present author provides a conceptual framework that includes as a corner stone a value-based definition of what it means to
“act in the public interest”. Behaviors are viewed in terms of their relationship to “acting in a way that maximizes the public interest”.
An “Ethics Map” is proposed that includes the following categories of behaviors:
- “Unethical” behaviors (behaviors based on an absence of public interest-oriented values),
- “Ethically neutral” or “ethically relative” behaviors (behaviors based on value neutrality or value relativity), and
- “Ethical” behaviors (behaviors based on a certain way of defining the public interest).
The way in which Gordon (1978) defined the public interest is used as the corner stone of the “Ethics Map”. “Acting in the public interest” is defined as “acting in a way that maximizes the values of life, health, and freedom”.
This so-called “Ethics Map” is provided as a framework for comprehending a large universe of different kinds of behaviors in which those in roles of responsibility in the public sector have been known to engage. In addition, this conceptual framework is based on the assumption that those in the public sector are in roles of public responsibility. The conceptual framework is based on the assumption that those in roles of public responsibility have taken on an obligation as public officials, public administrators, and public servants to serve the public interest and foster the public good.
From the author’s perspective, when one is “acting in the public interest” and therefore “acting in a way that maximizes the values of life, health, and freedom”; one is acting in a way that reflects the values of those who crafted the nation’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and its Preamble. Indeed, the author views the Preamble viewed as a kind of value-based “mission statement” for the nation.
In the paper, the author draws a comparison between Archie Carroll’s typology of managerial behaviors in the private sector (1987 and 1996) and Gordon’s “Ethics Map” and its typology of behaviors in the public sector (1978). Carroll’s typology consists of three categories of actions:
(1987 and 1996).
Comparing the two conceptual frameworks by Gordon (1978) and Carroll (1987 and 1996), one can see a major distinction between public and private sector ethics and hence between the actions of those in the public sector and the actions of those in the private sector. Those in the public sector are seen as being duty-bound and obligated to act in a way that maximizes the public interest and fosters the public good and that those in the private sector, while not similarly obligated, are seen as being free to act in a way that contributes to the public good. The actions of those in the private sector in an enlightened society are viewed by Gordon as being at their best and most ethical and morally value-based when those actions are focused on balancing “making a profit” with contributing to the public good. The opportunity for the realization of the vision of the Founders is seen as arising when those in both the public and private sectors are contributing in their own ways to the public good and hence the betterment of all.
It is well to begin a discourse on values in public administration with a focus on the values and the vision of the Founders. What values were reflected in the words and actions of the Founders? What values inform the actions of those in government and public administration today?
George Washington gave a charge to the Framers at the beginning of the American Experiment. Hesaid to the Framers when they began their work,
Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the event is in the hand of God….
How far has America come in realizing George Washington’s vision? Or has the nation drifted irreparably off course?
The turbulent and contentious behavior that seems to increasingly characterize the times can cause one to wonder if indeed the nation will be able to true its course and realize Washington’s extraordinary vision. If the nation is to true its course and realize the destiny that Washington foresaw, what are the values that need once again to become pre-eminent? What values need to inform the actions of those in government and public administration? What values need to guide the words and those in roles of public responsibility? Indeed, what values need to guide the words and deeds of those who are not in government? In this work, a kind of road map for achieving Washington’s vision is laid out. The road map describes and provides examples of the role that ethics and values can have in either fulfilling Washington’s vision orin thwarting it and keeping that vision from becoming a reality.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were the aspirational values that were the bed rock of the Declaration of Independence. Those responsible for the Declaration of Independence had risked their lives to establish a new nation that would enable them to realize these values. Those who founded the nation had studied how people in other times and places had endeavored to establish and maintain a governing order. The approach to governance of the United States that was taken grew out of efforts to assimilate the experience that other nations had had in governing. The Framers’ efforts resulted in the creation of a republic that was based on fairness; justice; representative governance with each citizen having one vote; a balance of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government; the primacy of the Constitution and due process and the rule of law; and the noble notion that no one is above the law. For this experiment involving a government for, by, and of the people to work and in order for the aspirations of the Founders to be realized, all citizens need to play responsible roles.
What more might be said of those who would seek to follow in the footsteps of those who launched this noble experiment in government? Such persons might well be characterized as being
- Persons of character
- Persons who value truth
- Persons who are honest and always strives to do the honorable thing
- Persons whose actions exemplify high-mindedness, humanity, and compassion
- Persons who value fair play
- Persons whose actions reflect a sense of justice
- Persons whose actions do not reflect deceit or cunning
- Persons who do not engage in pettiness
- Persons who are not self-serving and not ego-driven
- Persons who are selfless and as concerned for the welfare of others as for themselves
- Persons who have a sense of responsibility
- Persons who have a conscience
- Persons who act in a conscientious way
- Persons who have initiative and a will to act
- Persons who value reason and common sense.
The actions of a person fitting such a description may be said to be actions of an ethical person and actions of a person of integrity and character. Such a person may be said to be guided by a moral compass.
What further might be said of the values that ideally inform the actions of those serve in government, including elected officials as well as those who serve as public administrators and those who work in the public service? Ideally, all would act in ways that contribute to the public good. Ideally all would act in such ways that maximize the values that are in keeping with the public interest.
What does it mean to contribute to the public good? What constitutes acting in the public interest? What are the values that are implicit or explicit in the actions of those who “act in the public interest”? What values do those who choose not to act in the public interest ignore or disregard?
The following are a few of the ways in which values or the absence of values can be seen to play a role in the actions of public officials, public administrators, and those in the public service:
- They may have none or few of the attributes of individuals who hold noble values or aspirations. Their actions might reflect an absence of values and be antithetical to the values of those striving to serve the public good. Their actions might be characterized as being based on “no values”.
- Or they may act in a way that can be described as being “value neutral” or “value relative”.
- Or, ideally, they may act in a way that maximizes the values that appear to have informed the actions of the Founders. Such an approach might be characterized as a “value-based approach” to acting in the public interest and fostering the public good.
Gordon (1975) in “Public Administration in the Public Interest: A Democratic Humanist Paradigm of Public Administration”presented a paradigm of public administration based on an explicit philosophy characterized by a value-based approach to governance and administration. Fundamental to this paradigm was a definition of what it means to “act in the public interest” or “serve the public good”, the definition that is also used here. How might this way of defining “acting in the public interest” be viewed as being different from other ways of defining the public interest? According to Leys (1967), there were four ways of looking at “the public interest”:
- The utilitarian or aggregationist approach constitutes the public interest.
- A process-oriented approach and focus is the best way of defining the public interest.
- The normative, public good approach constitutes the public interest.
- An approach that views the public interest” as a “vague organizing concept”. This approach may be subsumed for all intents and purposes in the normative, public good approach.
In Gordon’s view, “acting in the public interest” is defined as “acting in a way that maximizes the values of life, health, and freedom”. Such an approach would fit into Ley’s category of a normative, public good way of viewing the public interest.
In Gordon’s definition, the word “health” is used to encompass the concept of the “General Welfare” as the term is used in the Preamble to the Constitution. Concern for the “General Welfare” is interpreted as encompassing a preeminent concern for human welfare, societal health, psychological health, and general well-being.
How were the values explicit in Gordon’s definition of “acting in the public interest” derived? Where did the values of life, health, and freedom originate? According to Gordon (1975), some basic ways through which values may be acquired or derived include the following:
- Religion or mystical or transcendental experience
- Existential reflection and answering affirmatively the question: Is life of value?
The sanctity or the primacy of the value of life itself can be acquired or derived in any of these several ways. Existentially if one asks the question “Is life of value?” and if one answers “Yes”; then it can be argued that certain values can follow from a “yes” answer. Albert Camus (1955) had asked himself this fundamental question. He reasoned that if one answered “yes”, then it was incumbent on that person to embrace life fully. If life is the ultimate value, then it would follow that living life fully is also an ultimate value. Gordon (1975) further reasoned that living life fully involved valuing health and well-being as well as valuing the freedom to live life fully.
To live life to the fullest may also be seen as involving embracing and expressing one’s humanity. In Gordon’s view, this same set of values are implicit, if not explicit in the nation’s founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and its Preamble. Gordon (2016) has offered a fuller discussion of what it means to live life fully in society in “Wishes for the Family of Humankind”.
How might one use this normative definition of the public interest to create a framework for understanding the relationship that various behaviors have to “acting in the public interest”? The “Ethics Map” was an attempt to create such a framework. The “Ethics Map” was initially developed as a way of describing a perspective concerning what constitutes an ethical approach to “acting in the public interest”. The “Ethics Map” was also developed to describe a perspective concerning what constitutes actions that are unethical and contrary to acting in the public interest and what characterizes actions that are “ethically neutral” or “ethically relative”. Gordon developed the “Ethics Map” as a part of training materials that Stanford Research International produced for the U.S. Department of Justice (Fletcher, Gordon, and Henzell, 1978). The training materials were used in a series of regional workshops for local public administrators. The workshops were held by the U.S. Department of Justice in different parts of the nation in the late 1970’s.
The “Ethics Map” was also subsequently used as the basis for workshop sessions for the Training Bureau of the U.S. Civil Service Commission (precursor to the Office of Personnel Management), the Federal Executive Institute, and the Federal Executive Seminar Center in Oak Ridge. Subsequently the “Ethics Map” has been used by the author in university courses at Johns Hopkins University and The George Washington University, among other universities, and in panel and workshop presentations. The version of the “Ethics Map” that is found in this paper has been modified in relatively minor ways over the years.
The “Ethics Map” is predicated on the assumption that those in the public sector are obliged to act in ways that give the highest priority to serving the public interest and fostering the public good. A purpose of the “Ethics Map” is to compare and contrast behaviors across the three categories and to awaken understanding and insight that might serve as an impetus for nurturing and strengthening value-based behavior among those who serve in government in the United States as well as those who serve in governments in all other nations that prize freedom and democracy.
Gerald E. Caiden in his “What Really is Public Maladministration?” (1991) and “Maladministration Revisited” (2016) had focused in yet another way on immoral and amoral behaviors. In the latter, Caiden (2016) wrote,
Maladministration is dysfunctional systemic performance that can be corrected. Bureaupathology refers to all the maladies that afflict complex organizations through imperfect operations. Corruption is the deliberate and knowing obstruction of performance that rewards its participants while leaving its victims aggrieved and inadequately compensated (p. 3).
In an early book of his, The Dynamics of Public Administration, Caiden also considers the range of healthy and unhealthy or “bureaupathological” behaviors in public organizations (Caiden, 1971). Building on James Thompson’s concept of “bureaupathology,” Caiden noted the chief characteristics of an unhealthy or bureaupathological organizational culture as one in which the following characteristics can be found:
Process is more important than purpose;
Authority is more important than service;
Form is more important than reality; and
Precedence is more important than adaptability.
(Caiden, as based on Thompson, 1971, p. 8)
Gordon (2004-2005) has also noted that unhealthy organizational cultures may be seen as nurturing and sustaining bureaupathological behavior. Such unhealthy behavior can be seen as reflecting a lack of integrity and the absence of a moral compass. Such behavior can be seen as falling under the “No Values” or “Value Neutral” categories of Gordon’s “Ethics Map” and the “Immoral” or “Amoral” categories of Carroll’s typology of “Immoral”, “Amoral”, and “Moral” approaches to management (1987, 1996). A fuller explication of the differences between healthy and unhealthy organizational cultures can be found in “Transforming and Leading Organizations” (Gordon, 2004-2005).
Of course, value-based or moral behaviors can still occur in organizational cultures that can be characterized as being predominantly “bureaupathological”. It should be noted that acting in a value-based or moral way in an organization that has a pathological or unhealthy organizational culture can present particular hazards and pose great challenges, even to persons of considerable character and integrity, indeed, sometimes particularly to persons of character and integrity.
Carroll in his typology pertaining to “moral management” (1987 and 1996)
did not parse out specific behaviors in his work to the same extent as had been done in the “Ethics Map”. The two typologies nonetheless share similarities. It might be noted that neither typology can be said to be derivative of the other, since neither author knew of the other’s work until the 1990’s.
A wide range of behaviors that can be found in the public service is described in the “Ethics Map” presented in the Table below. These behaviors are grouped into three categories:
- “No Values”: Behaviors rooted in illegal or immoral behavior that reflect values that are at odds with the definition of serving the public interest and fostering the public good as these are defined in this paper.
- “Value Neutral or Relative Ethics”: Behaviors that reflect an indifference to “Value-Based Ethics”, and
- “Value-Based Ethics”: Behaviors that serve the public interest and foster the public good through actions that maximize the values of life, health, and freedom.
Table: The Ethics Map
|No Ethics||Value Neutral or Value Relative Ethics – Indifference toValue-Based Ethics||Value-Based Ethics|
|Engaging in corrupt practices, including but not limited to bribery, extortion, blackmail, and coercion: “Corruption is the deliberate and knowing obstruction of performance that rewards its participants while leaving its aggrieved and inadequatelycompensated” (Caiden, 2016).||Being oblivious or dismissive concerning the commission of corrupt practices.||Taking action to identify, address, and uproot corrupt practices.|
|Committing or delegating the commission of illegal acts||Not committing or delegating the commission of illegal acts not because they are illegal, but because it is not advantageous to do so||Not committing or delegating the commission of illegal acts|
|Engaging in or delegating the engagement in other forms of wrongdoing||Not engaging in or delegating the engagement in other forms of wrongdoing because it is not expedient to do so||Not engaging in or delegating the engagement in other forms of wrongdoing|
|Failing to report wrongdoing or failing to take action concerning wrongdoing or covering up wrongdoing; failing to have a concept of what wrong doing is||Selectively reporting or taking action concerning wrongdoing when it is expedient to do so or otherwise selectively dealing with wrongdoing or having little understanding what constitutes wrongdoing||Reporting wrongdoing or taking action to uncover and addresswrongdoing|
|Lying or giving a false impression of the truth||Being truthful selectively||Being truthful|
|Engaging in conning||Giving false impressions when it is expedient to do so||Not giving false impressionswittingly|
|Engaging in practices or in game playing for bureaucratic or personal gain||Being motivated by prevailing non-humanistically-oriented values or value-neutral or relativistic approaches of the kind that too often characterize business and science||Not engaging in practices or in game playing for bureaucratic or personal gain|
|Engaging in “quid pro quo-ism”||Doing what is right when it is expedient to do so and acting on the basis of situational ethics when it is in keeping with one’s goals or objectives||Doing what is right and honorable regardless of the consequences|
|Engaging in self-aggrandizement||Being motivated by non-humanistically-oriented values or value-neutral or value-relative approaches of the kind that too often characterize business and science||Being motivated by fundamental concern for the public good: fosteringthe preservation and enhancement of the public good and maximizing the values of life, health, and freedom (Gordon, 1975)|
|Allowing blinding ambition or compulsion to get in the way of serving the public good, of addressing the public interest||Being blinded by an overweening reliance on the rational and empirical||Not being blinded by ambition or compulsion and not being blinded byan overweening reliance of the rationaland empirical|
|Abusing perquisites of station||Taking advantage of perquisites of station when it is possible to “get away with it”||Not abusing perquisites of station|
|Playing games with procedures||Playing games with procedures when it is possible to “get away with it”||Not playing games with procedures|
|Broom-closeting or dead-ending good people or people who are a threat or “make waves”||Treating people as functionaries, or means to an end, and without regard for human feelings and values, fair play, or justice||Treating people fairly, equitably, and humanely and going out of one’s way to encourage and supportresponsible action and ethical conduct|
|Making life difficult and career advancement impossible for those who perform their duties well or expose wrongdoing||Not really being fundamentally concerned with or attentive to individual or organizational integrity||Seeing to it that those who do their jobs do not lose their jobs; seeingto it that those who are raise concernsdo not lose their jobs for that reason|
|Keeping worthy persons out of responsible positions: not allowing persons with understanding and commitment to play an appropriate role, or assume appropriate responsibility||Tending to keep worthy persons out of responsible positions because of their value-based orientation to the role of the public servant and the purpose of government||Seeking out worthy persons for responsible positions; providingpersons with understanding and commitment an opportunity to playan appropriate role and to take onappropriate responsibilities|
|Providing disincentives for truthful and open communication and self-expression leading to the withholding of information or advice likely to prove unpopular or bring disfavor||Focusing on fact, reason, “empirically valid truths” while expressing little or no concern for honesty, openness, common sense, reason, or any sense of societal values and purposes||Fostering truthful and opencommunication and self-expression through example, through thesetting of a tone, and through one’swords and actions|
|Providing disincentives for good work||Using incentive systems based on a very narrow definition of what constitutes good work||Fostering good work and notproviding disincentives for goodwork|
|Constraining the development and contributions of others||Effectively constraining the development and contributions of others||Fostering the development and contributions of others|
|Not seeing to it that those who fail to serve in the public interest are removed from the public service if they do not change their ways||Failing to subscribe to a public good concept of the public interest (Leys, 1967) and failing to have a value-based way of defining what it means to act in the public interest||Seeing to it that those who fail to serve in the public interest are removed from the public service if they do not change their ways and helping them to change their ways|
|Using power in authoritarian, coercive, or Machiavellian ways||Seeing power in terms of equity, equalizing power relationships, being more concerned with the fairness of the process than with the human and social purposes served by the process||Seeing power as a creative, self-generating force to be used in constructive ways (Follett, 1920) andto be spread, used, and nurturedusing educational, normativestrategies. Seeing the task of democracy as being “freeing the creative spirit of man” (Follett, 1920).|
|Failing to resolve or try to resolve personal value conflicts ethically and legally and using common sense and reason.||Focusing on process and law in the resolution of conflicts, possible reliance as well on situational ethics||Trying to resolve personal value conflicts, ethically and legally and doing so without sacrificing integrity,fairness, humanity, common sense,and reason|
|Being guided by primary mentality assumptions of coercion, compromise, and cutthroat competition (Shepard in March, 1965)||Guided by an imperfect mesh of primary and secondary mentality assumptions (Shepard in March, 1965)||Being guided by secondarymentality assumptions of consensus-seeking, cooperation, collaboration (Shepard in March, 1965)|
|Playing games with information or withholding or distorting information to circumvent the law, or the intent of legislation; keeping needed information from others in government; keeping information from the public or anyone with a rightful claim to it||Adopting different approaches according to “what the traffic will bear”||Maintaining honesty and openness in the communication of informationand withholding information onlywhen legally or ethically necessary|
|Being disinterested in knowing what is really happening or in developing a real understanding of what needs to be done to protect or serve the public interest. Being disinterestedin acquiring needed knowledge and skills required to perform one’s role responsibly or otherwise failing to acquire needed knowledge and skills to perform one’s role responsibly||Having no commitment to serving the public interest in the public good sense of the concept (Leys, 1967); only being interested in acquiring knowledge that will assist in maximizing value-neutral or scientistic values and the value in process as an end in itself or not being interested in acquiring needed knowledge and skills||Being committed to serving the public interest; acting in such a wayas to maximize the values of life,health, and individual and societalfreedom; making efforts the acquirethe knowledge and skills needed to carry out one’s role responsibly|
|Flaunting or disregarding the law, judicial decisions, constitutional rights, human rights, human values. Willingly and knowingly flaunting the law and one’s oath to uphold the law and abide by the law.||Being effectively indifferent to theLaw and to constitutional and human rights. Being indifferent to those who flaunt the law and who do not abide by the law.||Acting in accordance with the lawwith constitutional and humanrights|
|Acting in such a way as to negate, neglect, or minimize the values of life, health, and freedom||Effectively acting in such a way as to negate, neglect, or minimize the values of life, health, and freedom||Acting in accordance with the public interest; acting in such a way as tomaximize the values of life, health,and individual and societal freedom|
|Disregarding or devaluing freedom||Effectively disregarding or devaluing and undermining freedom||Basing action in a firm regard forindividual and societal freedom|
|Conducting business, delivering services, addressing societal problems inadequately and inhumanely; using science and technology to disserve human and societal aims; or viewing science and technology as ends in themselves||Conducting government in such a way that government fails to be responsive to the public good in that actions do not reflect a fundamental concern for the public good||Conducting business, delivering services, addressing societalproblems well, humanely, in ahuman-hearted way, responsively,and in such a way asto conservevalued human and materialresources. Doing so in such a way that science and technology serve human aims and are employed in ways that benefit humankind|
|Allowing organizational efforts to become characterized by bureaupathology (Caiden, 1971)||Seeing to it that organizational efforts focus on process and not purpose, and on maximizing values that do not advance the public good concept of the public interest||Seeing to it that organizationalefforts are characterized byorganizational or bureaucratichealth where purpose, service, reality, and adaptability are moreimportant than process, authority,form and precedence (Caiden, 1971)|
|Focus on procedures in such a way as to evade responsibilities or thwart the purpose of the procedure||Focus more on process than on purpose; focus more on the process of attaining the public good than on the public good itself||Focusing on purpose, service,reality, and adaptability and onserving the public good|
|Allowing organizational jurisdictions, efforts at policy-making, implementation, and problem solving, and regulation to become so confused and overlapping as to make the proper conduct of government impossible and the solving of complex problems and the meeting of human and societal needs impossible||Allowing concern for process and structure to stand in the way of purposeful action and the resolution or amelioration of complex societal problems||Organizing in such a way that theactivities of government can becarried out well, responsively, andeffectively with humanity|
|Being unconcerned with purpose and service, failing to emphasize the responsibility and obligations of public servants to serve in the public interest||Paying too much attention to process, so much attention that process can become an end in itself; focusing on participation or decentralization in a way that they become ends in themselves, failing to take into account the problem of accountability and the necessary vesting of responsibility for governmental actions in public servants; focusing on processes thought to insure accountability rather than on the essence of responsibility and public service in the public interest||Making sure that purpose and service take precedence overprocess; emphasizing theresponsibility and obligationsof public servants to serve inthe public interest|
|Encouraging or taking part in bureaucratic game-playing for individual or bureaucratic gain||Refining the rules of the game along scientistically-oriented lines, scientism being defined as the divorcing of science, rationality, and empiricism from human values and concerns and common sense||Discouraging or not taking part in bureaucratic game playing forindividual or bureaucratic gain|
|Failing to seek solutions to problems affecting the public interest||Assuming an aggregationist or process-oriented approach to the public interest, not a public good approach (Leys, 1967)||Seeking solutions to problems affecting the public interest, assuming a public good approach, being concerned for thepreservation and enhancementof individual and societal well being|
|Not seeking solutions because of the possible or expected unpopularity of such solutions||Problems addressed when it becomes pragmatically and politically feasible to do so; allowing values of effectiveness and efficiency to dominate in the selection of problems to be addressed||Being guided by integrity and asense of what is right in seeking solutions to problems, addressingproblems, and implementingsolutions to problems|
|Conducting government in such a way that government fails to be responsive to the public good or it disserves or is indifferent to the public good and emphasizes pseudopolitical concerns or narrow self- or group interests, or it is value neutral or nihilistic (without value, purpose, or meaning)||Conducting government in such a way that government fails to be responsive to the public good in that it is viewed as not being fundamentally concerned with the public good||Conducting government in a waythat serves the public interest byacting to maximize the values oflife, health, and individual and societal freedom while striving to make the best use of resourcesin accomplishing these aims. The values essential to a free society and freedomin the world prevail|
|Failing to act on available information, understanding, and knowledge to avert loss of life, threats to health and freedoms; failing to act when the solution to a problem is at hand; failing to search for solutions||Failing to protect and preserve and enhance the public interest through a selective indifference to all of the kinds of information, understanding, and knowledge that bear on the preservation of human values and the solution of human problems||Acting to protect and preserve andenhance the public interest|
|Failing to assume an attitude of stewardship and responsibility for the protection, preservation, and enhancement of human and natural resources||Assuming an attitude of pragmatic expediency or indifference||Assuming an attitude of stewardship and responsibility for the protection,preservation, and enhancement ofhuman and natural resources|
|Failing to address crises, take mitigative action, or prevent them before they arise; and failure to develop such capabilities||Paying far more attention to matters of process and structure than to matters of societal purpose, sustainability, or survival||Taking mitigative action, recognizing and addressing crises, and,as possible, anticipating andpreventing them before they arise|
|Contributing to a “dog eat dog” mode of existence; contributing to the worsening of problems and the weakening of the social fabric||Acting in a way that is implicitly directionless, nihilistic, without long range goals; embracing a disjointed incrementalism, and being unconcerned with any overall developmental goals||Acting in a way that is conducive to healthy developmentalchange with those ingovernment serving as educational,non-coercive change agents andsolvers of societal problems|
|Failing to be responsive to public outcries that government is not serving in the public interest.||Focusing on the process of being responsive, but failing to be committed to acting in a way that serves the public good concept of the public interest||Being as responsive as possibleto those in and outside governmentwho feel that the public interest isbeing disserved|
One can argue that acting with integrity, acting in value-based and moral ways contributes to and helps sustain the healthiness of an organizational culture, whether or not the organization is a public or private sector organization. One can also argue that value-based or moral behavior can play a decisive role in transforming a bureaupathological culture into a healthy organizational culture (Gordon, 2004 – 2005). Gordon offers a fuller theory of healthy societal change and development based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs elsewhere (1975).
An Important Distinction Between the Public and Private Sector
There is an important distinction to be made concerning behaviors in public and private sector organizations. That distinction has to do with the special nature of the obligation that those who serve in government have. Paul Appleby (1945) had stated this truth in his following and memorable succinct statement: “Government is different”. Some would continue to clarify, the present author among them, that government is different in that those serving in government in America have an obligation to act in a way that serves the public interest and fosters the public good. That is the essential way in which “government is different”. They would argue that those in government have assumed a responsibility that those in the private sector have not necessarily assumed. That assumption of responsibility and that acceptance of an obligation to act in a way that serves the public and the public interest is what ideally characterizes the actions of those in government. The sense of obligation that they have to act in the public interest is at the core of all they do.
Much has been said here of the public sector, but what can be said of the private sector. It can be said that while in the United States those in the private sector are not obligated to act in the public interest in the same way that those in the public sector are; those in the private sector are free to act in a way that contributes to the public good. Indeed, those in the private sector are free to conduct business in a way that significantly contributes to the greater public good. There are in fact trends in business and industry in the United States as well as around the world, that reflect an increasing emphasis on a balancing of the goals of making a profit and contributing to the public good (Chappell, 1993; Nichols, 1994; and Halal, 1996). These trends can also be seen in the activities and initiatives of such national organizations as Business for Social Responsibility and in the global institution, the Caux Roundtable.
What are some examples of “new age companies” that strive to balance the goals of profit making with the goals of contributing to the public good? Examples include “new age” companies such as Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, Whole Foods (Fresh Fields), Timberland, Jet Blue, and Tom’s of Maine. In fact, Tom Chappell wrote a book about the evolution of his company, Tom’s of Maine. In his book entitled The Soul of a Business: Managing for Profit and the Common Good, Chappell has described the way in which he arrived at his personal philosophy and the approach that he has taken to his business. This approach aims at balancing profit-making and contributing to the public good (Chappell, 1993). Henry Schultz of Starbucks has also written of the approach that he has taken in the creation of Starbucks (Schultz, 1997), an approach that shares much in common with Tom Chappell’s. John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia have described the values-based approach taken at Whole Foods inConscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit(Mackey and Sisodia, 2014).An interesting variation on this theme is found in Share Our Strength, an organization founded by Bill Shore. Share Our Strength is an exemplary non-profit organization that incorporates a for-profit arm. The for-profit arm provides funds for Share Our Strength’s non-profit endeavors. Bill Shore described the approach taken by Share Our Strength in Revolution of the Heart ~ A New Strategy for Creating Wealth and Meaningful Change (Shore, 1995). As further described by Gordon, Shore has created two exceptional organizations, both of which recognize the value of nonprofits and for-profits working together to create community wealth and accomplish what can often not be achieved otherwise. The for-profit arm engages in strategies that include what can be called “cause-based marketing”. Share Our Strength, the nonprofit, draws on the strengths, talents and creativity of leading corporations through strategic marketing programs (including but not exclusively “cause-based marketing” programs) that engage customers, employees, and partners in a cause. In the case of Share Our Strength, that cause is to help end childhood hunger in America (Gordon, 2011).
The White Pony Express based in Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area is another exemplary effort among non-profit organizations that has developed a wide range of programs and initiatives that are rooted in the values of selfless service and generosity. The efforts of the White Pony Express focus on doing what can be done to help ensure in this “land of plenty” that those who are struggling to deal with basic survival and security needs are helped to rise out of their desperate circumstances.
A Wider Circle based in Maryland is but one other example of a growing number of other non-profit efforts focusing on addressing the needs of the poor and underserved in a wide range of ways.
The Education of Those in the Public Service and Those in the Private Sector
Efforts to educate those who are, or will be in the public service, as well as efforts to educate those who are or will be in roles of responsibility in the private sector need to be equally focused on cultivating understanding of what constitutes ethical behavior. Those in both sectors need to have well developed moral compasses. They need to be conversant with the true stories, cases studies, as well as journalistic accounts of what can happen in organizations and in a society where ethics and morality are lacking. They need as well to be familiar with examples of what can happen when ethical, value-based behavior is a driving force in their endeavors. If students can successfully grasp the issues and moral conflicts in even a small number of selected case studies, they will have broadened their comprehension of the essential elements of the “Ethics Map” and they will have gained a deepened understanding of the importance of having a moral compass and being person of character and integrity. They will be in the best possible position to contribute in positive ways to sustaining and strengthening the American experiment and realizing the boundless potential that this experiment for contributing to the benefit of all humankind.
Case studies that can serve both educate and inspire those in either the public or the private sector include such real-life accounts as John Bartlow Martin’s “The Blast in Centralia #5 ~ The Mine Disaster That No One Stopped” (Martin, in Waldo, 1953, pp. 2 – 22) and Kermit Vandivier’s “The Aircraft Brake Scandal” (Vandivier, 1992). Accounts of the decision-making process leading up to the Challenger Disaster and the Columbia Shuttle Disaster are also instructive. The ethical dilemmas faced by Michael Brown and the nature of what transpired with regard the Federal government’s pre- and post- Katrina decisions and actions can be found in an outstanding series of articles by Susan Glasser and Michael Grunwald (Glasser et al., 2005, and Grunwald et al., 2005) and in the February 11, 2006 deposition of Michael Brown (U.S. House of Representatives, 2006).
A multitude of documentaries, instructional videos, and films, including films made for television, can also be used to illustrate ethical behavior at its best and at its worst. “The Gathering Storm”, “Apollo 13”, “Serpico”, and “The Dish” are but a few of a multitude of films that contain valuable lessons. “The Parable of the Sadhu”, “Groupthink”, “The Abilene Paradox”, “Excellence in the Public Service”, and “The Excellence Files” are some instructional videos that can also be used to stimulate thinking about values and ethics, as well as provide examples of healthy and unhealthy behavior and organizational cultures.
These various media can provoke serious reflection concerning the character and consequences of ethical and unethical actions. They can also help individuals increase their understanding of human motivations and aspirations. In addition, they can serve as a source of inspiration and provide examples that can be emulated.
While the “Ethics Map” reflects one perspective concerning ethical behavior, it too can also serve to nurture the development of ethical behavior in the following ways:
- by provoking discussion concerning what constitutes ethical and unethical behavior;
- by providing a way of characterizing what constitutes proper and improper behavior;
- by helping individuals true their moral compasses;
- by helping individuals develop their conscience and sense of responsibility; and
- by helping develop individuals develop their understanding of the importance of acting with honestly and integrity.
Those in the field of public administration can play a crucial role in bringing about the kind of focus and consideration of ethical behavior that is needed in today’s world where moral compasses are too often broken or non-existent or where integrity is too often in short supply. Those involved in teaching as well as those who are practitioners in the field of public administration can be an inspiration to others by setting the standard through their own exemplary actions.
Moral values and principles, and a sense of responsibility can be imparted through example. They can be cultivated in others through the sharing of experience, common sense, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and insight. A sense of what acting in the public interest means can be gleaned by direct or indirect exposure to the actions of the best who have served in public life. Those coming up, as well as others already in roles of responsibility, can learn much from both the successes as well as the failures of those who have gone before them.
There have been and are individuals who possess the ideal attributes needed for public service. These individuals have needed neither carrots nor sticks to motivate them or influence their behavior. Luminaries in the public service the likes of Don Stone, Roger Jones, and Harlan Cleveland during their service in government acted out of the deepest sense of integrity and commitment to serving the public good. Such individuals were “metamotivated”. This term was coined by Maslow (1967). Metamotivated individuals are as concerned for the welfare of others as they were for their own welfare. They feel no need to dissemble. They feel no need to manipulate others. Maslow’s relevance to values in America has been eloquently discussed by Valiunas (2011). The relevance of Maslow’s concept of metamotivation to the healthy transformation of organizations, organizational cultures, and society in general has been further addressed by Gordon (1975, 2004).
A major challenge presently before us is not only how to foster the development of such high-minded, metamotivated individuals, but how to encourage them and inspire them to enter government service. What kind of selection process might help ensure that individuals are selected who are eminently well qualified for public service, individuals with integrity, character, maturity, a sense of responsibility, and a sense of commitment to public service. For the process to have the hoped-for result, it would seem necessary that those involved in making the recruitment and hiring decisions act on the basis of their own well-developed discernment, experience, intuition, understanding, knowledge, and uncommon common sense. It would seem imperative that they act on the basis of their own inner sense of integrity and responsibility, and their own unswerving commitment to serving the public interest and fostering the public good.
Public administration and public service in the United States have been rooted in the normative, value-based vision of the nation’s Founders and of those in government and academia who have followed most closely in their footsteps. These have included Woodrow Wilson, Mary Parker Follett, Paul Appleby, Emmett Redford, Dwight Waldo, Don Stone, Roger Jones, and Harlan Cleveland. These individuals have been a part of what Howard McCurdy called “the mainstream lineage of public administration” as distinguished from two other lineages identified by McCurdy: the Weberian lineage and the “Administrative Science” lineage (McCurdy, 1973, p. 10). McCurdy’s depiction of the mainstream lineage of public administration is augmented by Gordon (1975, p. 187) in the “Public Administration in the Public Interest” paradigm of public administration described there.
The mainstream lineage of public administration has been the target of considerable antipathy from the “Administrative Science” lineage of public administration. That antipathy can be found in large measure within many schools of public administration and public affairs today. The roots of that antipathy and its expression in recent decades are discussed at greater length in an interview of Gordon conducted in 2004 (Gordon & Heichelbech, 2004). The continuing significance of the clash of perspectives held by Dwight Waldo (of the “Mainstream” idealistically-oriented lineage of public administration) and Herbert Simon (of the “Administration Science” lineage of public administration) and the unresolved nature of that clash are also discussed there (Gordon & Heichelbech, 2004). In addition, these matters are described in some detail in Gordon’s dissertation that describes a value-based paradigm of public administration (1975). Chapters 5 and 6 go into some detail concerning the roots of the clash and the differences in the sets of values, assumptions, models of man, approaches to change, and approaches to understanding and knowledge that divide adherents of the “Mainstream” lineage and adherents of the “Administrative Science” lineage and their direct predecessors (Gordon, 1975, pp. 165 – 283.)
The ethical character of the actions of those in the public service today can be greatly enhanced through the awakening or reawakening of integrity, a sense of responsibility, and a dedication to serving the public good. Such fundamental integrity and principled action should once again define the aspirations, actions, and attitudes of all those who strive to serve the public good and to foster the public interest through their roles in public service. In order to make significant progress in the direction of such an ideal, the unresolved clash between the value neutrality of the “Administrative Science” lineage of public administration and the value-based, idealistic approach of the “Mainstream” lineage of public administration will need to be fully surfaced, recognized, understood, and addressed. A major step in that direction has been taken in a project headed by Mary Hamilton, a former Executive Director of the American Society for Public Administration and co-directed by Rita Paskowitz. The “Public Service Stories” Project is a series of interviews of 23 people in public service, including the likes of Admiral Thad Allen and Dwight Ink (Hamilton & Paskowitz, Eds., 2015). The videos of these interviews are all available free for viewing online on YouTube (Ibid). The educational and inspirational value of the fruits of this project represents an extraordinary resource that has only now begun to be tapped.
A value that has made the American experiment different from others that the world has known is that the American experiment has given rise to an intention that each person would have the opportunity and right to seek to realize his or her potential. Indeed, there is an opportunity for the nation itself to realize its potential as a force for good for the nation and a force for good in the world. The uniquely fashioned form of government now affords individuals as well as the nation as a whole to realize their potentials. Owing to the opportunities that exist, energies can be directed in such a way that such potentials can be achieved. Mary Parker Follett (1920) in fact described the “task of American democracy” as that of “freeing the creative spirit of man” (p. 54). The sub-text here is “for the betterment of humankind”.
George Washington’s words to the Framers, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair” are words that inspire and help all to focus on realizing the potential that is ours to realize.
The values that are apparent in George Washington’s words include those of wisdom, justice, honesty, freedom, and humanity. While increasing numbers of those in the private sector are voluntarily contributing to the public good; it is those public officials, public administrators, and public servants who abideby the value-based approach to ethical behavior that will be key to ensuring the future of the noble and unique experiment in the history of humankind that is America.
A fewportions of this paper were included in a somewhat modified form in a presentation the author gave to the Normative Foundations Group of the Transatlantic Workshop on Ethics and Integrity, March 21 – 23, 2007, Adelphi, Maryland. The initial iteration of the Ethics Map can be found in Gordon (1978).
Appleby, Paul (1945) “Government is Different,” from Big Democracy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf as reprinted in Jay M. Shafritz & Albert C. Hyde, Classics of Public Administration, 2nd edition, revised and expanded. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1987.
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Caiden, Gerald E. (2016) “Maladministration Revisited” Paper presented at SICA Panel on Governance at the 75thAnnual Conference of the American Society of Public Administration, Seattle WA, on March 18, 2016.
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Camus, Albert (1955) The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Translated by Justin O’Brien. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
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Fletcher, Thomas; Gordon, P. D., and Hentzell, S. (1978) An Anti-Corruption Strategy for Local Governments. Palo Alto: Stanford Research International.
Follett, Mary Parker (1920) TheNew State. London: Longman, Green, and Company, p. 54. Accessible online at http://www.channelingreality.com/Education/Mary_Parker_Follett_New_State.pdf.
Follett, Mary Parker (1925) “Power”. A paper presented before the Bureau of Personnel Administration Conference held in January 1925. Reprinted in Dynamic Administration ~ The Collected Papers of Mary Parker Follett, ed. By Henry C. Metcalf and L. Urwick, New York: Harper & Brothers Publications, 1940, pp. 66 – 87. Also reprinted in Mary Parker Follett ~ Prophet of Management, ed. by Pauline Graham. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business Books, 1995, pp. 97 – 119.
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Gordon, Paula D. (1978) “Map of the Range of Concerns Encompassed by ‘Ethics and the Public Service’.” In Fletcher, T.; Gordon, P. D., and Hentzell, S., An Anti-corruption Strategy for Local Governments, pp. 46-55. Palo Alto: Stanford Research International.
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http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/aspa/unpan019613.pdf. Also posted at http://users.rcn.com/pgordon/homeland/EthicsMapInterview.htmlor see link at http://gordonhomeland.com.
Gordon, Paula D. (2004-2005) “Transforming and Leading Organizations,” posted at http://users.rcn.com/pgordon/homeland/transforming_orgs.pdf or see link at http://gordonhomeland.com. Also published inGovernment Transformation, Winter 2004-2005.
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About the author:
Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.is an educator, writer/philosopher, analyst, and consultant based in the Washington, DC area, previously serving as a member of the Practitioner Faculty at Johns Hopkins University and as a Visiting Professor at The Washington University. She currently teaches a wide range of online courses for Auburn University Outreach. The newest of these courses is on “Transforming and Leading Organizations” (https://lnkd.in/ek9dHjv). That course includes a focus on portions of Dr. Gordon’s dissertation concerned with the public interest, educational approaches to change and societal problem solving, and an alternative approach to the value neutralscientism that is keeping would be problem solvers from successfully recognizing and addressing societal problems and challenges. The course includes an emphasis on ethics, values, and the public and private sectors. Other online courses that Dr. Gordon teaches for Auburn University Outreach focus on homeland security and emergency management (www.auburn.edu/outreach/opce/emergencymgmt/); on the effects and impacts of marijuana, the role that marijuana is playing in the current drug crisis, and the policies, programs, and approaches needed to meet the challenges (http://www.auburn.edu/outreach/opce/marijuana.htm); and on the current drug crisis and how the crisis can be more broadly defined and understood and more successfully addressed (www.auburn.edu/outreach/opce/emergencymgmt/).
Before her most recent move to Washington, D.C., Dr. Gordon ran for U.S. Congress in Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has worked in a wide range of policy-related roles in Federal government agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health, the Federal Energy Office/Federal Energy Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
Her writing on a variety of policy areas, including drug abuse prevention and emergency management and homeland security can be found primarily at GordonDrugAbusePrevention.comand GordonHomeland.com. Her work on public administration; the purpose and mission of government; governmental problem-solving and management; leadership; organizational culture, behavior, and change; and ethics and values can be found at GordonPublicAdministration.com,GordonHomeland.com, and GordonHumankind.com. Her doctoral dissertation, “Public Administration in the Public Interest” is a prescriptive analysis of a paradigm of public administration and governance that is in keeping with the value-based mission statement found in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. It is posted in its entirety at GordonPublicAdministration.com.