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Rev. -Sept. 04 -Puad700SyllabusFall2004wPic

Ethical Dimensions of Public Administration

PUAD 700 - Department of Public & Intl Affairs

Fall 2004  Mon. 7:20 - 10:00pm (sec.001)Dr. Brown Office RobinsonA-234

Dept. of Public & International AffairsClassroom:  Robinson A-206

Off. Hrs: Mon and Tues 2-4:00p.m.+ apptbbrown@gmu.edu ; tel. X 1405


Ethical Dimensions is the required capstone course in the P.A. Program at the Masters level.  It examines critical aspects of choice, conduct, operations, and policy interpretations of administrators.  Using materials from all parts of the field of P.A. and the social sciences we focus on those factors which affect how we choose alternative means or ends especially when it is not clear which ones are more right or wrong, more or less fair or just.  We assume that agents of the public (who are elected, appointed, or contracted) should behave and make decisions in accordance with high ethical standards.  These standards, however, are often not explicit.  Laws, regulations, and rules more often indicate what is prohibited, not what is the right conduct or what “ought” to be done.   Consideration of “oughts” is the course focus.

Where do we learn what constitutes right (virtuous) conduct or action, especially in organizational and public settings?  Our ideas about what it means to be ethical come from multiple sources.  The sources are democratic and other philosophical traditions, the constitution, religious values, and professional codes.  This mixture of values adds to the difficulties as well as the possibility of making ethical administrative choices.  Public servants must recognize and balance many different kinds and levels of value calculation against one another.  Further complications are introduced when considering international relationships, or deciding what ought to be done under rapidly changing scientific & technical conditions.

This course assumes that ethical factors, as much as the political, economic, and technical ones play a key role in shaping administrative decisions and actions.  Undoubtedly, administrators have to be concerned with objective and quantifiable values like economy, efficiency, performance, productivity, and risk.  But qualitative concerns must also be dealt with. Means and ends must both be evaluated carefully to see whether they are fair, decent, equitable, just, and truthful.  Such values are not easily assessed in quantitative terms.

Our capacity to exercise responsible self-government and realize the goals of security, order, peace, and prosperity require attention to ethical questions.  Our dependence on ethical knowledge is in fact increasing as new ethical problems continue to emerge from such trends as privatization, deregulation, the information revolution, biotechnology, terrorism, surveillance, and new weapons technologies.  Ethical questions have become mainstream questions for all professions whether they operate in the business, public or voluntary sectors.  

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