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Intro To Public Administration

Assignment questions are under the “Talk About It” sections (2 or more questions per section).

Let’s engage in some dialogue. It’s one thing to read about a topic. But, in order to learn, we need to think, write, and talk about the topic. We’ve combined the module notes with a discussion so that you may jot down your thoughts, insights, questions, etc. as you read. Within the notes, you’ll find guiding questions to help spark the conversations.

M2A1: Administrative Power
Eight Things Americans Can’t Figure Out About Controlling Administrative Power

Separating politics from public administration has always been a topic of debate in the field. Wilson, in A Study of Administration, emphasized the same point and the discussion continues today. Consider, for example, the current focus on the Department of Justice and the role of politics in the alleged events behind the ongoing Mueller investigations. This example might be a bit high profile, but the examples are seemingly endless.

“In the United States, for example, we cannot escape the difficulty of fitting the ‘round peg’ of administrative government into the ‘square hole’ of the nation’s constitutional culture.”’

For this case study assignment, you will identify an example of the political environment’s influence on public administration. Describe the issue/event and discuss the role of the political environment and administrative power in the case. Consider the following and incorporate into your analysis:

· Would Gaus’ ecology perspective be more applicable?

· How would Norton Long’s perspectives as well as the Shapiro & Murphy reading apply?.

Using course readings and at least two outside sources to support your position, offer suggestions for addressing this issue. Your case study should be in APA format and no less than 4 pages.

or this case study assignment, you will identify an example of the political environment’s influence on public administration. Describe the issue/event and discuss the role of administrative power in the case. Would Gaus’ ecology perspective be more applicable? Consider Norton Long’s perspectives as well as the Shapiro & Murphy reading.

Using course readings and at least two outside sources to support your position, offer suggestions for addressing this issue. Your case study should be in APA format and no less than 5 pages.

M2A2: Student Wrap-Up
This activity is all about you. Let’s talk about your learning. Did you achieve your goals for the module? What information from this week did you find helpful? How will you use the information? Share what interactions, resources, and activities helped you to meet the goals, and how they helped. Include links and images to these experiences.

Also, what challenged you? What are you grappling with? Did you have an ‘Aha’ moment?

The purpose of the reflection is for you to engage in metacognition. Metacognition is a high-level learning skill that we want to help you develop.

MPA 500: Power Dynamics Obamacare is an excellent example of public administration in relation to the complexities of the

general environment and the role of administrative power that we will discuss in this module. This

scenario illustrates how electoral politics can influence policymaking as well as the influence of

legislative gridlock and narrow policy victories in a highly polarized political environment. Further, it

shows how administrative institutions – public agencies, departments, and field offices—are engaged in a continual battle for political survival (Stillman, 2010).

Affordable Care Act

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the landmark Patient Protection and

Affordable Care Act (ACA). The act was designed to make health care services available to more than 30

million Americans without health insurance. It was the biggest overhaul of the nation ’s healthcare

system since 1965 when Medicaid and Medicare were passed. After extensive lobbying by the health

insurance and pharmaceutical industries, the act was approved by Congress on a largely party-line vote

of 60–39 in the Senate (all Democrats and two independents voting for, all Republicans in opposition).

The House of Representatives approved the Senate measure by a 219–212 vote, (34 Democrats and all Republicans voting against it) (Kraft and Furlong, 2013).

Not without controversy, provisions of the ACA have been taken all the way to the Supreme Court. In

June 2012, the Court upheld Obamacare stating its requirement that most Americans obtain insurance

or pay a penalty was authorized by Congress’s power to levy taxes. The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief

Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining with the court’s four more liberal members in their opinion supporting

the ACA (New York Times, 2012).

1 – Image by SalFalko.

More recently, the Supreme Court has contemplated the rights of business and the extent to which the

government can arbitrarily impose its will over the First Amendment rights of private companies in the

case of Sebelius versus Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In this case, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled 5-4 for

the owners of Hobby Lobby. The ruling states that they did not have to violate their faith by providing

life-terminating drugs in their health plan. Furthermore, recent opinion polls show that the ACA remains

unpopular. A national survey by the Pew Research Center between February 27 and March 16, 2014

found 53 percent disapproved of the law. More recently, a federal district court judge in Texas ruled the

individual mandate of the ACA to be unconstitutional and, therefore, the law could not stand. This invalidation of the ACA will likely result in further consideration by the Supreme Court.

General Environment

At one moment, the government can appear to be a constant. In the next moment, it can change. For

example, a policy of tightening airport security can be framed as reducing the likelihood of another

attack similar to 9/11. However, security can also become a variable with a negative impact on the civil

liberties and rights of American citizens.

Our discussion on this topic begins with the concept of ecology which was introduced into public

administration by Harvard professor John M. Gaus. Ecology refers to the relationship between living

organisms and their environment. Gaus believed that administrative systems were inextricably

intertwined with the social fabric (Stillman, 2010). In his 1945 essay, The Ecology of Public

Administration, Gaus described several important elements for explaining the “ebb and flow of the

functions of government: people, place, physical technology, social technology, wishes and ideas,

catastrophe, and personality” (Stillman, 2010). His approach offers a lens into the general environment of public administration.

judge hand with gavel
2 – Image from Wikipedia.

Gaus expressed an interest in change in the ecology of the public administration environment.

Specifically, through an ecological approach to public administration, he believed that new and renewed

institutional patterns could be devised from the experiences of individuals living in an age of change. For

Gaus, ecology in public administration became a fundamental way of understanding and dealing with all the major changes in contemporary life (Stillman, 2010).

As you read Gaus’s The Ecology of Public Administration, be sure you note the factors that Gaus

identifies and each factor’s role in public administration. How do they work together? Keeping in mind

that this was written in 1945, how does this theory apply in today’s society? Does it need to be changed? What organizations do you think can be attributed to Gaus ’ theory?

Gaus proposed that the development of public administration and its activities were influenced by its

setting or ecology. Drawing on the work by Charles Beard, Riggs (1980) established a list of factors to

explain the ebb and flow of the functions of government: people, places, physical technology, social

technology, wishes and ideas, catastrophe, and personality. This concept of ecology influences all

administrative activities of government from the ground up. Each factor shapes the direction of public

policy and institutions in a myriad of ways. For example, Gaus discusses the movement of people from

rural to urban areas and how that, along with other factors, has resulted in the creation of different administrative organizations to address this change.

“When speaking about the environment as a parameter, I have in mind one of the definitions of this

word as a variable constant. The environment is, indeed, at any moment a constant, but in the long run,

it also becomes a variable” (Riggs, 1980, p. 107).

This quote by Fred Riggs from The Ecology and Context of Public Administration: A Comparative

Perspective (1980) is a fitting start to our conversation about the general environment of public

administration. Here, Riggs suggested that decision makers should become aware of the fact that the

environment is fluid and ever-changing. Having read Gaus and keeping his perspective in your mind,

read through Rigg’s The Ecology and Context of Public Administration: a Comparative Perspective.

Talk About It

Considering both readings, how does Rigg’s perspective compare to Gaus? How can we apply this

concept of Ecology to the field of public administration? What are the essential elements of Gaus ’

“ecology” and how does his approach fit into today’s society? Do any examples that illustrate this

concept come to mind? Use your class readings to respond, incorporating a contemporary public administration issue that illustrates Gaus’ approach.

Political Environment

While Gaus stressed administrative ecology, Norton E. Long focused on the immediate environment of

public administration as – administrative power. Long stated that “the lifeblood of administration is

power.” His concept of power is placed in the context of a chaotic landscape where he argued that administrative institutions must battle continually for political survival (Stillman, 2010).

In comparison to Gaus, Long’s perspective on the environment of public administration is narrower.

Long approaches the environment from the view of administrative power. Long ’s classic essay, Power

and Administration, describes a continuous battle for political survival and power by various

administrative institutions (specifically, public agencies, departments, bureaus, and field offices). The

limited power resources of clients and constituent groups are up for grabs in this struggle to maintain

power. Perhaps Long’s (1949) most famous quote from this essay is, “The lifeblood of administration is

power. …And yet, it is the most overlooked in theory and the most dangerous to overlook in

practice.” Additionally, Long adds that power comes from more than the top down, in so much that it

can flow both from the sides to the center of an organization and from the bottom up.

In some aspects, the power struggle described by Long can be compared to Weber’s thoughts on

bureaucracy. Further expanding on this perspective, Herbert Kaufman offers a general overview of the

topic of administrative power, particularly as it relates to bureaucracies. Kaufman begins by explaining

the official powers of bureaucrats and how within these powers they directly shape policy.

“To accomplish these ends, the highest organs of government have no choice but to arrange for the

employment of public servants provided with the authority and the wherewithal to do the actual work.

Often, the highest officials yield to this necessity with reluctance; they are not always happy with giving

such power to others” (Kaufman, 2001).

Talk About It

In your reading of Long’s Power and Administration, consider how Long discusses the role of the

American party system and its impact on public administration. As agencies are forced to struggle for

administrative power, how does that negatively impact the daily operations of those organizations?

How do the shifts in public support play a role in the balance of power? What contemporary examples illustrate Long’s approach?

Consider what Kaufman is saying here about power. Obviously, those who have it do not necessarily

wish to delegate. Yet delegation of power is an important function of public administrators. Long

acknowledged the central importance and nature of administrative power for practicing public

administrators throughout his writings. He also warned that it is dangerous for administrators to negle ct power and politics.

Adding to the discussion of administrative power, Sidney Shapiro and Richard Murphy (2008) presented

a legal discussion of the challenge of administrative power, specifically examining the role of the

judiciary. Acknowledging further that the allocation of power – particularly from an administrative law

perspective – Shapiro and Murphy emphasize that administrative agencies are not only subject to

oversight by both the executive and legislative branches, but the judicial review process further complicates the issue of who is actually “in charge”.

Talk About It

Using the class readings as support, how would you define administrative power? What are the

advantages and disadvantages? Identify and discuss an example that illustrates the use of administrative

power in public administration.

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