Ethics and Public Administration

| October 17, 2015

Choose any one of the following questions and answer them with reference to a current policy or public administration issue. Show how a theory or theories of ethics can illuminate a particular issue within the field of public sector management.
1. Was Machiavelli right in arguing that the requirements of a moral life and of political life are incompatible?
2. Is there a conflict between the new public management and ethics?
3. Critically discuss the following statement: As policy makers and managers we need both the capacity and will to be accountable.
4. Explain the three broad frameworks for ethical literacy outlined in your text, namely: idealism, pragmatism and the virtue based approach. Do you think these approaches provide an adequate framework? What is the argument for an expanded form of pragmatism developed in the West Churchman Series (see Ulrich;s 12 questions based on the work of West Churchman).
5. Critically discuss the following statement with reference to the argument developed by Uhr ( 2005 in chapter 3):
…Democracy ‘involves much more than a claim to rule on the part of all the people. It is a consciousness of the obligation and the privilege of service’. The ethical performance of a democratic government is not measured by the extent of popular power but by the people’s commitment to the public good.” (Uhr 2005: 58).
6. Critically review the paper entitled “At what cost the nanny state?” at http://www.ethics.org.au/about-ethics/ethics-centre-articles/ethics-subjects/culture-and-society/article-0479.html. Apply the ethical frameworks detailed in your tool kit. Consider the implications of the following approaches for your argument: idealist approach versus narrow and expanded pragmatism.
7. Critically analyse the following statement with reference to the arguments developed in chapter 1 of the Ethical Imagination by Margaret Somerville :
…the good cannot be some common [nature of good things] that is universal and single; for if it were, it would be spoken of in only one of the categories, not in them all. There is no single Idea across different sciences…. (Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, chapter 6 p1096 a.30 translated by Irwin 1985).
8. To whom should public servants be primarily accountable? (you may use a case study to illustrate your answer)
9. Should we expect politicians to be completely truthful?
10. Is it possible to improve public sector ethics? Evaluate the pros and cons of the different methods of improving public sector ethics.
11. Is there a conflict between the requirements of organizational life as it is experienced by managers and those of morality, as Robert Jackall maintains?
12. Use Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory to analyse an ethical issue within public policy or management and critique his approach.
13. Mary Douglas argues that there are four cultures and four moralities. Examine a controversy in public policy or management and identify how the protagonists who are involved exemplify these different cultures/moralities.
14. Are decision makers in government ever justified in getting their hands dirty?
15. Demonstrate ethical literacy to analyse a public policy or management issue.
16. How should public sector managers and policy makers approach ethical decision making? Should they subscribe to one of the three main approaches to ethics or should they make a contextual decision? Justify your argument with reference to examples.

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