The Founders, the Constitution and Public Administration: A Conflict in World Views

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Viewed alternately as an obstacle to justice, an impediment to efficient government, and a tool by which some groups gain benefits and privileges at the expense of others, public administration threatens to become the whipping boy of American government. In this innovative look at the nation's bureaucracy, Michael W. Spicer revisits the values of the Constitution in order to reconcile the administrative state to its many critics.

Drawing on political and social philosophy, ...

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Overview

Viewed alternately as an obstacle to justice, an impediment to efficient government, and a tool by which some groups gain benefits and privileges at the expense of others, public administration threatens to become the whipping boy of American government. In this innovative look at the nation's bureaucracy, Michael W. Spicer revisits the values of the Constitution in order to reconcile the administrative state to its many critics.

Drawing on political and social philosophy, Spicer argues that there is a fundamental philosophical conflict over the role of reason in society between writers in public administration and the designers of the American Constitution. This examination of worldviews illuminates the problem that American government faces in trying to ground a legitimate public administration in the Constitution. Defending and developing the Founders' idea that political power, whatever its source, must be checked, he critically examines existing ideas about the role of public administration in American governance and offers an alternative vision of public administration more in line with the Founders' constitutional design. This book will provide fresh insights for anyone interested in the role of public administration in the United States today.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780878405817
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Pages: 128
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael W. Spicer is a professor of public administration and urban affairs at the Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction: The Uneasy Status of Public Administration 1
The Lack of Legitimacy of Public Administration 2
Why Worry About Legitimacy? 4
Public Administration and the U.S. Constitution 5
Critics of the Constitution 7
The Importance of Worldviews 9
The Purpose of this Work 10
The Relevance of this Work 11
2 Rationalist and Anti-rationalist Worldviews 13
The Rationalist Worldview 14
Rationalist Thought 15
The Anti-Rationalist Worldview 20
Anti-Rationalist Thought 21
3 The Worldviews of Public Administration and the Constitution 26
Rationalism and Public Administration: The Early Writers 26
Rationalism and Public Administration: Contemporary Writers 30
Anti-Rationalism and the Founders 34
4 On the Checking of Power: The Logic of a Constitution 41
Interests 41
Passions 45
Unintended Exploitation 46
Majority Rule 48
The Use of Knowledge 50
5 Visions of Public Administration 54
"Discretionists" and "Instrumentalists" 54
The Friedrich Argument 55
The Finer Argument 59
The Friedrich-Finer Debate and the Checking of Power 62
6 An Anti-rationalist Vision of Public Administration 67
Administrative Discretion and Checking Power 67
Modern Writings on Administration as a Check on Power 69
The Anglo-American Tradition of Administrative Discretion 71
Checking Administrative Power: Rules and Procedures 73
Checking Administrative Power: Citizen Participation 76
Inertia, Inflexibility and Impersonality 78
Constrained Discretion 79
7 The Ethics of Administrative Discretion 81
Anti-Rationalism and Ethics 81
Personal Honesty 82
Neutrality 84
Utility 86
Social Equity 87
Common-Law Reasoning 89
Consensus 93
8 Summary and Conclusion 97
The Contemporary Relevance of the Anti-Rationalist Vision 98
Anti-Rationalism in the Administrative State 100
Toward a New Perspective 102
References 105
Index 111
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