The nature of work for public administrators requires them to uphold ethics. Rohr (429) believes that they perform their duties for the good of the public. Democracy is believed to be the foundation of the bureaucratic ethics. This paper will analyze the argument that democratic government is the foundation of bureaucratic ethics
Foundations of Bureaucratic Ethics
Rohr (70) argues that the constitution should be the guiding tool for bureaucrats when considering ethics in their line of duty. While comparing the public administrators in the United States and those in France, he notes that the public administrator can base their decision making on the constitution of the country.
The constitution legitimizes the office of the administrator hence their actions would be justified if they are supported by the constitution.
Public administrators in a democracy have the responsibility of ensuring that the constitution is followed as pointed out by Rohr (70). Democracy promotes justice and equality as well as freedom which the citizens should enjoy. Democracy can therefore be identified as the origin of bureaucratic ethics as it protects justice and equality. The administrators are therefore obligated to be ethical hence they become democratic.
Koffsky (235) mentions that the constitution alone may contain all the moral obligations that a public administrator is required to uphold but it does not guarantee that it will be followed.
This is because other qualities such as kindheartedness and selflessness may be needed in addition to the ethics. In order to maintain power in a democracy, the bureaucrat may have to observe bureaucratic ethics. For this reason the public administrator chooses to remain a steward as opposed to the master.
Rohr (436) reveals that the public administrators take an oath of office to maintain ethics in their duty. This oath is derived from the regime of the day. Moreover the ethics are reflective of the law of the land and reflective the judiciary. Therefore, bureaucratic ethics can be considered to be the agenda in which the government of the day intends to do for its people.
Public administrators can fail to observe ethics and relieving them from their duties can be impossible because they are protected by the constitution. The constitution may not consider failure to observe ethics as a basis of relieving a bureaucrat form office (Koffsky 235).
Rohr (436) encourages the use of constitution to train and to shape the character of administrators through training and study of the history. By examining several accounts in which the constitution has been used to make judgment the administrator will be in a better position make an ethical decision. Moreover, the culture of using constitution in ethical issues can be considered by a public administrator.
Koffsky (235) notes public administrators have conflicting interests amongst themselves and may not promote bureaucratic ethics. The executive may lack the individual honesty and adopt utilitarianism to justify their actions. Bureaucratic ethics may require individual honesty for a public administrator to practice democracy in a democratic government.
Public administrators perform duties assigned to them by the government of the day. Their office is legitimized by the constitution and so their decisions are guided and informed by the constitution. Moreover they take an oath of office that has a constitutional support and that is in line with the current regime.
They are expected to show justice and equality in their activities hence they perform their work in the best interest of the public which is also the backbone of democracy. Although the constitution may advocate for democracy the bureaucrats need individual honesty.
However, bureaucratic ethics originates from democratic government since ethics advocate for justice and equality which means that they work selflessly in the best interest of the public.
Koffsky, Daniel L. Coming to Terms with Bureaucratic Ethics, 1995. Web.
Rohr, John. A. Ethics and Comparative Administration: A Constitutional Commentary. American Review of Public Administration, 10 (2008): pp. 65 – 74.
Rohr, John. A. The Constitution in Public Administration: A Report on Education. The American Review of Public Administration, 16 (1982): pp. 429-431.