In the third chapter of Public Service and Democracy, Louis C. Gawthrop describes the Spirit of Public Service in the statement, “I thought it my duty to risk myself for you”. This statement truly captures the real meaning of the spirit of public service as it appears in the American constitutional democracy as well as in the American character. It means that an American citizen would be willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of a fellow citizen.
Further, Gawthrop discusses three ethical/moral values that he considers as the foundation of American democracy. Trust and loyalty act as the foundation for a constitutional faithfulness, which in turn acts a source of a rational, ethical, and focused interdependence among all citizens. Indeed, the book of proverbs reflects the values of faithfulness and loyalty, which infuse America’s entire democratic tradition.
Similarly, these values of faithfulness and loyalty are summed up in the idea of love of God as well as the love of neighbor, which is a central theme in the New Testament and which the America’s democratic tradition reflects accordingly, in the form of former president Jefferson’s social ethic.
Gawthrop points out that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are meaningless concepts unless Americans view them from the perspectives of both faithfulness and loyalty to a love that holds all American citizens together. These biblical values are fundamental in the forming of American democracy and are a combination of what the American character reflects.
Gawthrop further points out that it is possible to get a holistic synthesis from the biblical tradition that comprises of obligation and love, faithfulness and loyalty, as well as purpose and being.
In the fourth chapter of The Responsible Administrator, Terry L. Cooper notes the various impacts that objective and subjective responsibility have on ethical decision-making. Objective responsibility involves having responsibility to someone else, or a body of persons, and responsibility for specific duties, subordinate persons and goal achievement.
Object responsibility usually involves principal-agent theory where the main objective of the principal usually entails finding the best way possible to motivate the agent to perform a task as per his requirements, while taking into considerations the challenges involved in checking the agent’s activities.
This perspective usually generalizes the principal-agent relationship as it focuses mainly on the aspect of efficiency while failing to deal with the ethical issues. Thus, this is not an apposite approach to use for administrative ethics. On the other hand, subjective responsibility usually involves peoples’ personal feelings as well as beliefs regarding responsibility.
Therefore, while objective responsibility usually arises from organizational, legal and societal demands for public administrators to execute their roles, subjective responsibility has its roots in peoples’ feelings regarding conscience, beliefs regarding loyalty as well their identification.
Subjective responsibility typically reflects the public administrators’ professional, ethical development through work experience. Indeed, these private sources of responsibility might begin as exterior expectations and standards that later become internalized, through socialization and training. Consequently, individual responsibility is usually effective in situations that require ethical decision-making.
Both readings offer guidance to public administrators as they demonstrate the need for people to uphold themselves in responsible ways that meet the expectations of the society and the American constitution. The readings show that public administrators need to strive to work for the benefit of other citizens’ by making ethical decisions that reflect upright and responsible citizens.
Cooper, T. L. (2012). The responsible administrator, 6th edition, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Gawthrop, L. C. (1998). Public service and democracy: Ethical imperatives for the 21st century, 1st edition, New York, NY: Seven Bridges Press LLC.