Can Administrative Ethics Be Taught?

What are public administration ethics? There is reasonably broad agreement about what administrative ethics are not. They are not vague, “feel-good” exhortations about an undefined public interest, and they are not simply the general ethical principles that typically guide personal, moral choices .Just as the legal and medical professions have codes of ethics tailored to their professions, public administrators have adopted ethical principles for public stewardship.

By focusing on new challenges of the evolving nature of governance, a main premise is that: Can Administrative Ethics Be Taught? Code of Ethics implicitly commits public administrators to adjust their frameworks for decision making in a way that reflects the changing nature of the public, and—by extension—the public interest. Indeed, this Code requires public administrators “to exercise discretionary authority to promote the public interest” and further recognizes that the Code of Ethics is “a living document”.

Today population is broader and more diverse than those in the past. For example, today’s “governance” features new entities and new relationships that may be subject to new conflicts of interest —ones that previously had not existed. As a result, it is necessary to be familiar with the administrative Code, but the utility of ethics codes can only be realized after one learn how to recognize circumstances (old and new) that pose ethical dilemmas, and acquire a broader understanding of the approaches to ethical decision making. One way to grasp and prepare for the evolving challenges is to discuss events, preferably local ones that pose ethical dilemmas. It also is important to develop a “system” for considering ethical dilemmas. Thus, the teaching ethics is important to reflect on the broader implications that are inherent to any decision brought on by the changing nature of governance.

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