Saturday, May 2, 2009

Public Administration - A Perspectival Approach

Public Administration
A Perspectival Approach
Written by: Bernard Gbayee Goah
Public Administration

This paper centers on the perspective approach as it relates to American public administration. The first part of this paper contains a brief discussion about the differences between the substantive and process perspectives and how the constitutional perspective combines elements from both perspectives.The second part of this paper addresses how the communal and individualist perspectives and the political and bureaucratic perspectives impact one another.

Differences in Substantive and Process Perspectives
The difference between substantive and process perspective are as follows: Substantive perspective focus on the ends or the outcome. It answers the questions of what I as an individual or a community wants.
Process perspective, on the other hand, looks at the “how” aspect. It gives individuals and communities a way in which to meet their ends. What Process is necessary to get or achieve what I want?
The constitutional perspective is where the substantive and process perspective intersects. It is mostly externally important because it creates a balance wheel between the two perspectives. Although both the substantive and the process are always related, there is constant tension in the system. This tension arises from differences in individual, community, and political needs as well as how those needs are met. The constitution provides a rule of law, administrative discretion, and administrative responsibility.
The constitutional perspective serves as a guide and, in theory, equal protection. There are always specific provisions within constitution’s of every nation that protect or act on each perspective depending on what each perspective constitutes represents. These provisions confer on the constitution the power to make laws and act upon the breach of these laws in pursuance of national interest (Kass, 2009).

Impact of Perspectives on One Another
In order to understand how communal and individualist perspectives and the political and bureaucratic perspectives impact one another there must first be a shared understanding of each perspective. Therefore in each section of the remainder of this paper a definition of each perception precedes the discussion on impact.

Communal and Individualist Perspectives
The communal perspective is community oriented. The communal perspective views humans as social animals whose character is formed in human communities for better or worse. The overriding belief in the communal perspective is that the creation of a human community is capable of forming the best sort of individuals, who are capable of living the best sort of collective life, according to commonly agreed upon notions of the good. In order for this view to hold, individual interests must be subordinated to the common good of the community. People are socially interdependent, participate together in discussion and decision making, and share certain practices that both nurture and define the community (Kass, 2009).
Human beings, as people, develop by living in a community. Through living in a community they become civilized. Community is believed to shape people to be able to live a collectively good life. From a basic world view, a communal perspective looks at a world of human communities composed of equals that nurture and develop individuals in a mutually supportive environment. Collective choice and action are community consensus oriented resulting from extensive dialogue. The role of government is to enforce the will of the community and should be a small scaled majoritarian democracy (Kass, 2009).

The individualist perspective on the other hand, believes that humans are intelligent, self interested, and are rational beings that are capable of directing their own affairs. Individuals have the opportunity to better themselves and only minimum security from government is preferred.
The individualist perspective believes that there is maximum opportunity for each individual to realize their potential to the fullest. In order for an individual to operate to the fullest of such potential they require an environment that fosters the freedom to make their own life choices and that gives a rational individual the right to make an informed and unforced decision as required. Decisions based on requirement forms the basis for the determination of moral responsibility for one’s actions. The individualist perspective’s preferred vehicle of collective choice and action is the market, supplemented with majority voting where necessary (Kass, 2009).

The individualist perspective holds that the role of government should be to protect and adjudicate property rights and the individual civil rights necessary to maintain the individual freedom to make choice and pursue one’s own rational self interest. The individualist perspective believes in a constitutional government, but with expressly limited powers and rule of law, in other words people want to govern themselves with limited government interference (Kass, 2009).

The individualist perspective has core agreements. These core agreements prioritized rule of law; equal protection under the law; and protection of property rights. These agreements are categorized into subdivisions called libertarians, commercial republicans, and social liberals (Kass, 2009).

Libertarians believe in expanded personal liberties. For example, individuals should have the right to use drugs, sexual expression, self defense, and an abortion. Every individual should have access to the political system with minimum restrictions and only minimum regulation by government is required but at the same time
Libertarians want reduce and if possible elimination of government involvement into the social lives of individuals (Kass, 2009). This form of individualist perspective believes in the extension of individual rights to corporations is a legal pursuit and is necessary. They believe that there should be maximum political access for industry, and minimum for labor and that economically, commercial infrastructure construction and the socialization of risk and privatization of profit is necessary in other to succeed. They strongly hold the view that social expenditures can minimize industrial cost and maximize profits (Kass, 2009).

Social liberalism is a form of individualist perspective that believes in the strict enforcement of civil liberties for all. One good example is the civil liberties of minorities. A social liberal holds the view that there should be a strict separation of church and state. Social liberals believe that there should be a policy or a program that seeks to redress past discrimination through active measures to ensure equal opportunity, as in education and employment and this should be considered legal. Social liberal believe every individual should have access to the political systems with minimum restrictions. Social liberal believe that the impact of economic cycles should be regulated and that extreme distributions of wealth should be reduced as well. From social point of view, social liberals hold the belief that education, health care and social security should be financed by the public. With a firm understanding of both perspectives, it is much easier to realize the impacts the two have on one another (Kass, 2009).

The individualist perspective is in direct conflict with the communal perspective in many areas because it places value on the individual, while the communal perspective places value on the community. Every individual makes his or her own decision in their own interest regardless of whether such a decision affects the community as a whole. Sometimes what may be good for an individual may not be good for the entire community. The individualist perspective discourages collective ideas, general community consensus on issues, and how laws are enforced. On the positive side, communities are created by individuals, with individual ideas, beliefs, and drives. This can impact the communal perspective positively because often it is the idea generators that help communities move forward in a positive fashion.

The communal perspective also conflicts with the individualist perspective. The communal perspective has the propensity to stifle an individual’s ability to realize their full potential. While the communal perspective encourages participatory democracy, it does not ensure participation; this often leads to a small number of people making decisions for a large body of people. The communal perspective can impact the individualist perspective positively, but communities are made up of individuals. As a community grows and strengthens, so does its members.
The interactions of these two perspectives are illustrated in the case study, “Happy Valley Regional Library” (Morgan, Green, Shinn, & Robinson, 2008). An employee of the library felt that some reading material were not suitable for all readers, this was based on her individual religious views. If her view was upheld, some members of the community would not have equal access to some library materials. This is not in line with the communal perspective, as the community should be making any censorship decisions, and would be wary of making decisions that disenfranchise a portion of the community.

Political and Bureaucratic Perspectives
Bureaucratic perspective holds that an elite minority of humans are intelligent, rational, ambitious, morally superior and far seeing. Bureaucratic perspective views that majority of the populace are of modest intellectual and moral abilities, un-ambitious, self interested and short sighted. The basic process objective of this perspective is to achieve large scale and/or complex goals using the most efficient and effective mean. Unlike the communal perspective, the bureaucratic perspective is not people oriented but goal oriented. Bureaucrats believe that we are living in a world of scarce resources that can nonetheless be maximized by technologies employed through efficient, large scale organizations. From a bureaucratic perspective, the preferred vehicle of collective choice and action is technical rationality (Kass, 2009). When bureaucrats perceive some problem exists, they think that more rules must be created and enforced and obeyed to solve the problem.

One difference between the freedom-oriented individual perspective and the bureaucrat perspective is in how rules are applied. Rules as guidelines or heuristic rules-of-thumb for decision-making can be very helpful in solving problems. The bureaucratic perspective believes that creating and enforcing more rules solves many perceived problem. This perspective holds the view that the important consideration about any perceived problem is to do something about it through the creating and enforcing of more rules. This perspective looks at whether a problem exists at all, apart from the bureaucratic mentality that such a problem exists? Assuming there really is a problem, will the creation and enforcement of more rules effectively solve the problem? Or will the creation and enforcement of more rules make the problem worse? What is the morality of creating and enforcing rules by force? The very essence of the bureaucratic perspective is that organizing human interaction calls for increasing the number of rules, types of rules, and enforcement of those rules. For many in high-level employees working in bureaucratic systems, it's probably compulsive. After all, such behavior benefits them, so it's very self-serving as well.

Bureaucratic perspective forces you to accept “help” even if you do not want it or need it. The perspective creates more jobs by convincing as many people as possible to become dependent upon the system. This perspective believes that independent individuals are much harder to control than dependent people. The bureaucratic perspective exists largely to create dependencies.
From a bureaucratic perspective, the role in government is to achieve and sometimes shape large scale and or complex public goals. The preferred governmental arrangement is the Rule of Law (Kass, 2009).

The political perspective’s view of human nature is that humans are self interested and intelligent enough to pursue these self interests. However, they display the capacity for two types of self interest, narrow self interest and self interest rightly understood. Narrow self interest is the pursuit of one’s interest regardless of its adverse impacts on others. This aspect of the political perspective is almost like the individualists perspective, in that it promotes one’s self interest regardless of how this interest affects others (Kass, 2009).

Self interest rightly understood takes the route of almost a combination of communal perspective and some part of the individualist’s perspective. Self interest rightly understood is the pursuit of self interest that takes into account the welfare of others on the premise that if the majority does well, in the long run one will also do well. The basic process objective of the political perspective is to allocate material and non material values that cannot or should not be allocated in a marketplace. For example, you would not want to market human kidneys or illegal drugs. The political perspective supports the articulation and realization of a commonly agreed upon set of values that will realize the best sort of collective life for the community. The basic rule of government is the same as the above. The political perspective preferred governmental arrangement is a governmental structures and processes that allow maximum access to decision making processes and encourage compromise among diverse interest, or alternatively, those that encourage and enforce a common vision of the good life (Kass, 2009).

Again, these two perspectives impact one another in many ways. The political perspective takes into consideration two types of self interests which I have already mentioned, narrow self interest and self interest rightly understood. The self interest rightly understood negatively impacts the bureaucratic perspective because its fosters the pursuit of self interest by taking into account the welfare of others on the premise that if the majority does well then in the long run individuals will also do well. The bureaucratic perspective on the other hand is goal oriented, not people oriented. The political perspective can positively impact the bureaucratic perspective.

On the other hand bureaucratic perspectives believe that an elite minority of humans are intelligent rational and ambitious and morally superior which is completely opposite of the political perspective. So there is a huge conflict between the two because one is people driven that supports a commonly agreed set of values and collectiveness from a community at large, while the other is focused on complex goals using the most efficient and effective means directed by a handful of people. A positive impact of the bureaucratic perspective on the political perspective is that it can assist in achieving goals more efficiently because it takes the personal aspect out of completing a task.

While this paper discusses many of the differences between the various perspectives, it can be concluded that there are many commonalities as well. The role of public administrators in today’s world is finding the common ground between these perspectives, thereby meeting the needs of a large majority of individuals and communities.

Morgan, Douglas F., Green, Richard, Shinn, Craig W., & Robinson, Kent S. (2008).
Foundations of Public Service. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
Kass, Henry D. (2009). The Individualist Perspective. Oregon: Blackboard.
Kass, Henry D. (2009). The Communal Perspective. Oregon: Blackboard.
Kass, Henry D. (2009). The Constitutional Perspective. Oregon: Blackboard.
Kass, Henry D. (2009). The Political Perspective. Oregon: Blackboard.
Kass, Henry D. (2009). The Bureaucratic Perspective. Oregon: Blackboard.

News Headline

Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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