Politics of the Administrative Process; Week Discussion

1. The chapter states, “We find ourselves in an impossible dilemma, with citizens increasingly demanding quick, effective relief from more of the problems they face while complaining about a government that is, expensive, and intrusive. It is impossible to set this balance to satisfy everyone. It’s often impossible to find a balance that will please anyone.” Respond to this quotation. What do you think? Is the text correct in its assertion that citizens want more from government yet complain more readily about the methods government uses to solve these problems? What is the solution? Does Government need to launch a better public relations campaign to educate citizens about its constraints?

2. Some scholars choose to place the study of public administration within that of generic organizations. For instance, Waldo states that “there is a movement away from a sharp distinction between public and private, and toward a blurring and mingling of the two.” Yet, Sayre argues that “business and public administration are alike only in all unimportant aspects.” Is either scholar right? What are the similarities between public and private administration? How is public administration distinct from administering private organizations? How does emphasis on the rule of law in public administration make it distinct from private administration? How do the relationships between public administration and the legislators, courts, and the media distinguish public administration from the private sector?

3. Early on in the chapter, the authors discuss how much we are surrounded by government bureaucracy. Says the text, “None of us can even get our days started without encountering government bureaucracy. The water we drink, the cars we ride, the bicycles we pedal, the streets we walk—all are the product of government bureaucracy in action.” Does this reassure you or make you nervous? Why? Were you aware of so much government in your midst?

4. The text emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between a person and a position saying that within bureaucratic organizations “ . . . patterns of behavior persist regardless of who holds a position.” This makes it possible for scholars to study organizational theory as they can make conjectures about positions and how they work harmoniously or antagonistically regardless of the personality who holds the job. What do you think about this assumption of scholars that it is possible to study a role independent of the person who holds it? The concept that social psychologists Daniel Katz and Robert Kahn write about saying “The structural properties of organization are sufficiently stable so that they can be treated as independent of the particular persons in the role-set.” Do you think this is a sound way to study organizations? Do individuals substantially affect their offices such that they undermine the types of generalizations made by organizational theory?

5. Do you agree with the underlying assumption of the principal-agent theory that individuals seek their self-interests? Do you further agree that contracts are the way to solve potential organizational problems among principals and agents? Discuss the dilemma built into the theory and the potential strengths and weaknesses of this concept.

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