Ethics plays different rolls in public administration based upon the type of administration. After all, an administration is a business and it has to make money to survive. If businesses in public administration based the ethics of each individual employee, then the administration would fail. For example, a state employee dealing with welfare for a citizen feels that the citizen should get more money than authorized by the state; by allowing this for one it would only be ethical to do for everyone. Now the state will lose money and taxpayers will want to know where there money is going.
The state goes bankrupt???because of an ethical choice. Administrators get paid to do what the administration instructs them to do, not to make their own ethical decisions. In the example given above, the state only allows what the government sees fit. The administration was not set up to make ethical choices that employees feel are the right thing to do. It may sound bad that the administration will not allow extra money to be given to a person in need, but if it did happen the administration would not exist and the benefits available would be nonexistent. Administrators must be value-free when implementing public policy.
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If they allow their own personal values to interfere with the administrations work then the work cannot be carried out efficiently. Student loans are just one example of this statement. An administrator may feel that a larger loan may help a financially challenged student, however there are more students to fund and only so much money to lend. Letting personal ethics get in the way of “business” would cause larger problems further down the road. Rules are rules and are in place for a reason. An administrator cannot change the rules for some individuals and not for others.
Goodsell says that the administrators that have more experience than others usually handle the dilemmas of personal ethics better than those who have no experience at all. Experienced administrators understand that it is their job to carry out the work of the administration and not to let “self” get in the way. Sometimes inexperienced administrators leave the workplace feeling sorry for individuals and wondering if there was something more they could have done. Alasdair Macintyre sees this in a totally different light. He says that administrations should not work on rules alone but to depend on character and personal values.
Just because the administration says it should be one way doesn’t necessarily mean that is the way it should be handled. For example, if a person needs more assistance than allowed it should be given while others that need less should only get what they need. On another plane, Ralph Hummel believes there is a paradox with the values of an organization and the values of each administrator employed by that organization. He says that each administrator must deal with each situation in his or her own way. One of the examples that Hummel gives involves a welfare mother of eight.
Now, she needs money from the government and the agent knows that the maximum amount allowed will not be close to what this lady needs to care for these eight children; what does the agent do? This agent now has to deal with her own views; ‘do I try to get his lady more money? ‘ or ‘maybe she shouldn’t have more kids’. No matter what the agent is thinking, she can show no opinion in the matter and she can only do what the administration allows. In another example given by Hummel, when a person dies it is just another form to be filled out at the Social Security Administration.
The administrator filling out and filing the paperwork cannot let the fact that this person was someone’s loved one and now they are gone, get in the way of his or her job. These are only two examples of the separation of values that administrations place on their employees. Charles Goodsell says that it takes a special personality to be a successful bureaucrat. He says that bureaucracy changes the personalities of the individuals working for them. Some administrators follow the rules and never take risks. This is the type of personality that will always be anonymous and just “get by”.
Other administrators will take gambles and either move up on the organization or end up as disastrous failures. Rather than the values of the individual affecting the administration, the administration values grow on the individual. Again, each individual administration must base what rolls personal ethics will play. Administrators should always be neutral when implementing public policy and let the administration dictate the guidelines. The public, however, should try to understand that administrators follow rules just like any other business. If there were no rules to administer, there would be no administration.