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Issue № 29. December 2011

Counterintuitive Ethical Guidance for Public Administrators

Michael M. Harmon

Professor emeritus, Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University.
E-mail: mharmon@gwu.edu

This paper provides a critique of several of the key philosophical and psychological assumptions on which mainstream administrative ethics is typically based, followed by a discussion of four "counterintuitive" ethical propositions implied by that critique. The author undermines the belief that mainstream ethical discourse can achieve its intended purpose of providing useful moral guidance. Because these ethical propositions are counterintuitive, they may initially seem to be not only whimsical but also affronts to common sense. My intention, however, is to explain, with an occasional sprinkling of irony, how various intellectual perspectives from outside the mainstream discourses on ethics and management render those propositions not only sensible, but eminently practical. The four propositions are: (1) don't give advice, (2) be unprincipled, (3) accentuate the negative, and (4) be indecisive (or, trust the process).

Keywords

Ethical guidance for public administrators, management, ethical discourse.

Comments:
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