UNIT: The Study of Public Administration and Bureaucracy
Issue: Is Contemporary Public Administration Theory More Influential Than Its Classical Counterpart?
YES: Jocelyne Bourgon, from “Responsive, Responsible, and Respected Government: Towards a New Public Administration Theory,” International Review of Administrative Sciences, 2007
NO: Herbert Kaufman, from “Emerging Conflicts in the Doctrine of Public Administration,” American Political Science Review, 1956
Jocelyne Bourgon argues that public administration is in need of new, unifying philosophies that will allow the discipline to keep up with the advancements occurring throughout the public sector. By providing a new public administration theory, we can make the discipline relevant to what occurs in government every day. Herbert Kaufman, writing in the 1950s, argues that traditional public administration—founded through experimentation with government structures—would be capable of remaining relevant regardless of future changes in public service. The key values expounded by Kaufman remain relevant today and even form the backbone of what we expect from public administration.
Issue: Can Public Administration Be International in Scope?
YES: Woodrow Wilson, from “The Study of Administration,” Political Science Quarterly, 1887
NO: B. Guy Peters, from “The Necessity and Difficulty of Comparison in Public Administration,” Asian Journal of Public Administration, 1990
Woodrow Wilson argues that administration, as a discipline, finds its roots throughout Europe. Given the generic central tenants of administration theory, Wilson asserts that our young nation was only unable to improve administrative mechanisms and procedures by looking to the experiences of other nations. B. Guy Peters argues that while the discipline needs more meaningful comparative studies, there are several impediments that make it difficult to conduct such studies. As long as minute and subtle differences make great deals of differences, it will be difficult to have meaningful comparative studies—making public administration best studies as a country-specific phenomenon.
Issue: Is Bureaucracy the Best Option for Organizing Government?
YES: Charles T. Goodsell, from The Case for Bureaucracy: A Public Administration Polemic, 4th ed., 2003
NO: Ralph P. Hummel, from The Bureaucratic Experience: The Post-Modern Challenge, 5th ed., 2007
Charles T. Goodsell argues that American bureaucrats are among the best in the world and that they are not mere agents of waste and red tape. Using empirical evidence and cases, he helps paint a picture of public servants working as best as possible to carry out the functions of government for the citizens they serve. Ralph P. Hummel argues that although public servants may be well-intentioned, bureaucracy is inherently dark and causes managers, workers, and clients to all behave in manners inconsistent with the goals of government service. Despite a public servant’s good intentions, the corrupting influence of bureaucracy will eventually lead to inefficiencies emerging.
UNIT: Dilemmas of Public Policy
Issue: Is It Possible to Balance Efficiency and Equity in Public Policy?
YES: Kristen Norman-Major, from “Balancing the Four E’s; or Can We Achieve Equity for Social Equity in Public Administration?” Journal of Public Affairs Education, 2011
NO: Julian Le Grand, from “Equity versus Efficiency: The Elusive Trade-Off,” Ethics, 1990
Kristen Norman-Major argues that even though equity was identified as the fourth pillar of public administration by the National Academy of Public Administration, we can—and should—go further to ensure policies are both efficient and equitable. Only through concentrated efforts can we make equity as important as economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. Julian Le Grand argues that the trade-off between efficiency and equity is not as easily solved. Rather than attempting to solve the tradeoff, he believes we can best help impact policies by challenging the tradeoff framework.
Issue: Do Bureaucrats Have More Influence on Public Policy Than Other Branches of Government Do?
YES: U.S. House of Representatives, from “A Failure of Initiative: Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina,” 2006
NO: Douglas J. Amy, from “The Case FOR Bureaucracy,” Government Is Good: An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution, 2007
The U.S. House of Representatives argues that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was unprepared to respond successfully to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. While acknowledging the difficulties posed by the magnitude of the storm, it becomes clear that the House places more blame on the bureaucrats than the legislators who were largely responsible for funding and monitoring the agency. Douglas J. Amy argues that the failures of Katrina are more directly related to a lack of financial support from the president and Congress to assure that bureaucrats are in a position to successfully carry out their assigned tasks. The stereotypes of modern bureaucracy, in his eyes, are undeserved given the effort put forth by today’s public servants.
Issue: Is It Possible to Coordinate Federal, State, and Local Governments in a Way That Allows Policy Making to Be More Efficient?
YES: Jenna Bednar, from “The Political Science of Federalism,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2011
NO: Thomas Birkland and Sarah Waterman, from “Is Federalism the Reason for Policy Failure in Hurricane Katrina?” Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 2008
Jenna Bednar argues that federalism can be an effective government format to help ensure that policies are ultimately efficient. Through successful coordination of federal, state, and local governments, it is possible to make implementation less costly and more effective for citizens. Thomas Birkland and Sarah Waterman argue that a lack of coordination contributed significantly to the outcomes of Hurricane Katrina. Without being coordinated from the beginning, policy had no chance of being carried out smoothly in a time of crisis. The more we attempt to coordinate, the less efficient policy outcomes are likely to be.
UNIT: The Politics–Administration Dichotomy
Issue: Do Bureaucrats Need to Be Politically Neutral to Be Effective?
YES: David E. Lewis, from “Testing Pendleton’s Premise: Do Political Appointees Make Worse Bureaucrats?” The Journal of Politics, 2007
NO: William F. West, from “Neutral Competence and Political Responsiveness: An Uneasy Relationship,” Policy Studies Journal, 2005
David Lewis argues that federal programs administered by politically appointed bureau chiefs perform less effectively than those run by bureau chiefs drawn from the civil service. Career managers have more direct bureau experience and longer tenures in office. Both factors are believed to lead to better performance. William West argues that nonpartisan objectivity within the career bureaucracy does not necessarily serve the interests of presidents and other members of government. If bureaucrats must be neutral, many scholars believe they are unable to be fully responsive, thus potentially limiting their ultimate effectiveness.
Issue: Should Government Be Run Like a Business?
YES: Julia Beckett, from “The ‘Government Should Run Like a Business’ Mantra,” American Review of Public Administration, 2000
NO: Jim Powell, from “The Disaster of Government-Run Businesses,” Campaign for Liberty, 2010
Julia Beckett argues that the government-as-business metaphor can be effectively utilized, although judicious application is encouraged. She focuses on three forms of business—the sole proprietor, the partnership, and the corporation—and analyzes the appropriateness of each to government operation. Jim Powell argues that government-run businesses are at best ineffective and potentially catastrophic. He examines both international and domestic cases, citing Britain’s National Health System and Amtrak, Fannie Mae, and Medicare as American examples of government-run corporate entities that produce unintended consequences.
Issue: Should Governments Use the Private Sector to Deliver Public Services?
YES: Leonard C. Gilroy, from “Local Government Privatization 101,” Reason Foundation Policy Brief, 2010
NO: Paul R. Verkuil, from Outsourcing Sovereignty: Why Privatization of Government Functions Threatens Democracy and What We Can Do About It, Cambridge University Press, 2007
Leonard C. Gilroy argues that, although caution must be utilized, privatization of public services is an effective way to improve overall performance and cut costs to the taxpayer. He uses data and case examples to establish the conditions under which privatization is best used. Paul R. Verkuil argues that privatization has the potential to damage government effectiveness and employee morale. He appeals to constitutional and statutory limits to privatization.
UNIT: Functions of Government Workers: Administration, Management, and Budgeting
Issue: Does Performance Management Lead to Better Policy Outcomes?
YES: One Hundred Third Congress of the United States, from “Government Performance & Results Act of 1993”
NO: Robert D. Behn, from “The Psychological Barriers to Performance Management: Or Why Isn’t Everyone Jumping on the Performance-Management Bandwagon?” Public Performance & Management Review, 2002
Congress and President Clinton worked in 1993 to pass the Government Performance & Results Act. They hoped the legislation would help restore America’s faith in the federal government’s ability to efficiently and equitably implement policy and run our nation. Robert D. Behn argues that performance management does not necessarily improve the performance of public agencies. In his view, performance management has not led to improved performance as much as scholars have simply succeeded in finding some successful agencies where these programs are in place.
Issue: Is Employment Equity Necessary?
YES: John F. Kennedy, from Executive Order 10925: Establishing the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, 1961
NO: Anthony Kennedy, from “Majority Opinion, Ricci v. DiStefano," U.S. Supreme Court, 2009
President John F. Kennedy argued that government contractors needed to take action to ensure applicants are considered without regard to any characteristic such as race, color, or nationality. In 1964, his arguments led to the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission through the Civil Rights Act. Justice Anthony Kennedy argues that tests that are vetted properly can be used for merit promotion even if there are apparent racial divides within the results. In this light, affirmative action should be devoted to ensuring that minorities are equally prepared for tests, not in assuring actual equity.
Issue: Is It Possible to Motivate Workers in a Manner That Increases Job Satisfaction in the Public Sector?
YES: James L. Perry and Lyman W. Porter, from “Factors Affecting the Context for Motivation in Public Organizations,” The Academy of Management Review, 1982
NO: Seong Soo Oh and Gregory B. Lewis, from “Can Performance Appraisal Systems Inspire Intrinsically Motivated Employees?” Review of Public Personnel Administration, 2009
James L. Perry and Lyman W. Porter examine comparative motivational contexts in public organizations to determine what can be done to increase motivation. They ultimately find out monetary incentives, goal setting, job design, and participation all have different impacts on motivation. Seong Soo Oh and Gregory B. Lewis argue that some employee motivation tools, such as performance appraisal systems, can decrease employee productivity. The authors find that this is especially true for intrinsically motivated workers.
Issue: Should Incrementalism Be the Guiding Budgeting Philosophy of Public Agencies?
YES: Aaron Wildavsky and Naomi Caiden, from The New Politics of the Budgetary Process, 3rd ed., Longman, 1997
NO: Aidan Kelly, from “An End to Incrementalism? The Impact of Expenditure Restraint on Social Service Budgets, 1979–1986,” Journal of Social Policy, 1989
Aaron Wildavsky and Naomi Caiden argue that incremental budgeting accurately reflects the nature of the political process in the United States. Conflict is minimized by accepting this reality and focusing on only a handful of discretionary items. Aidan Kelly argues that incremental budgeting has not been shown to occur throughout many social service departments in England. Most troubling, however, is that much of the success in the departments occurred within non-incremental budgeting frameworks.
Issue: Do We Need More Budget Flexibility for Discretionary Spending Compared to Entitlements?
YES: Ian Hill, Holly Stockdale, and Brigette Courtot, from “Squeezing SCHIP: States Use Flexibility to Respond to the Ongoing Budget Crisis,” The Urban Institute Series A, 2004
NO: Lyndon B. Johnson, from Great Society Speech, 1964
Ian Hill, Holly Stockdale, and Brigette Courtot use survey data to demonstrate the manner by which states utilized budgetary flexibility to tailor the SCHIP program to particular state contexts and weather economic conditions. In a 1964 commencement address, President Lyndon Johnson argued that the Great Society programs achieved a standing higher than mere policy. The combination of public policy and stirring emotional rhetoric demonstrate the attachment many citizens feel to the Great Society programs and perhaps explain why such entitlement programs are deemed untouchable during the budgetary process.
UNIT: Administrative Ethics
Issue: Should Whistleblowing Be Encouraged in the Public Service?
YES: Tim V. Eaton and Michael D. Akers, from “Whistleblowing and Good Governance: Policies for Universities, Government Entities, and Nonprofit Organizations,” The CPA Journal, 2007
NO: H.L. Laframboise, from “Vile Wretches and Public Heroes: The Ethics of Whistleblowing in Government,” Canadian Public Administration, 1991
Tim V. Eaton and Michael D. Akers argue that, although the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 applied to corporations, government and nonprofit organizations are not immune from similar problems. Through historical analysis and discussion, the authors contend that whistleblowers should be encouraged and actively protected. H.L. Laframboise argues that while whistleblowing can be quite useful and necessary, there are some individuals—dubbed vile wretches—whose decisions to blow the whistle actually cause more public problems than the actions they believe they need to expose. As a result, encouragement can actually harm public perceptions of government.
Issue: Are External Controls Effective Tools for Ensuring Principled Conduct?
YES: Victor A. Thompson, from Without Sympathy or Enthusiasm: The Problem of Administrative Compassion, University of Alabama Press, 1975
NO: H. George Frederickson, from “Ethics and Public Administration: Some Assertions,” Ethics and Public Administration, ME Sharpe, 1993
Victor A. Thompson argues that since public employees are human, they inevitably pursue individual preferences and goals, sometimes at the expense of organizational goals. Thus, he advocates external controls over public employees. H. George Frederickson argues that administrative discretion is essential to effective public service. The author acknowledges that while external controls such as codes of ethics and ethics legislation will likely increase democratic accountability, such external controls often amount to “gotcha” mechanisms that punish offenders rather than inculcate ethical mores and encourage proper conduct.
Issue: Should Public Employees Have Collective Bargaining Rights?
YES: Amanda Huffman, from “The Wisconsin Debate—The Basics and Implications of Public Sector Collective Bargaining Legislation,” Georgetown Public Policy Review, 2011
NO: Daniel DiSalvo, from “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions,” National Affairs, 2010
Amanda Huffman argues that the Wisconsin showdown from spring 2011 demonstrates a clear need for public employees to have collective bargaining rights. The challenge, in her eyes, is to discover how to maintain a balance and integrity in public sector employment relationships that provides appropriate checks on both employer and union power. Daniel DiSalvo argues that public union members will need to willingly make concessions in the future or risk seeing dramatic changes due to the faltering economy. Highlighting the efforts of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, DiSalvo believes citizens will eventually begin questioning the demands of public employees if they do not begin coming to their senses.
UNIT: Government in the Twenty-First Century: New Avenues of Study
Issue: Has e-Governance Had a Dramatic Influence on Public Administration?
YES: Sang M. Lee, Xin Tan, and Silvana Trimi, from “Current Practices of Leading e-Government Countries,” Communications of the ACM, 2004
NO: Victor Bekkers and Vincent Homburg, “The Myths of e-Government: Looking Beyond the Assumptions of a New and Better Government,” The Information Society, 2007
Sang M. Lee, Xin Tan, and Silvana Trimi examine the impact e-government has had on countries that have been early and leading adopters. Such transitions toward e-governance have created a self-sustaining change in a broad range of closely connected technological, organizational, cultural, and social effects. Victor Bekkers and Vincent Homburg argue that many of the myths associated with e-government—such as technological inevitability, a new and better government, rational information planning, and empowerment of the intelligent citizen—are not supported by empirical analyses. Instead, they are merely myths that are propagated through American culture.
Issue: Should Public Agencies Use Social Media to Reach the Citizenry?
YES: Peter R. Orszag, from “Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications,” Office of Management and Budget Memo, 2010
NO: Bev Godwin, et al., from “Social Media and the Federal Government: Perceived and Real Barriers and Potential Solutions,” Federal Web Managers Council, 2008
Peter R. Orszag argues that government agencies can benefit by reaching out to common citizens through third-party Web sites and applications. Although cautious about the usage of such applications (especially with regards to privacy), Orszag believes through successful usage, agencies can move toward a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Bev Godwin, Sheila Campbell, Jeffrey Levy, and Joyce Bounds argue that there are several barriers to the federal government successfully utilizing social media to help reach citizens. Through their argument, we begin to see the ways that social media can actually complicate the relationship between citizen and government.