Public administration

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 Choose three questions to answer per bracket. Respond with two paragraphs on two questions and one on the other. 1. What do you think about the requirement that government employees be tested before hired? According to the exact wording of the law, “ . . . open, competitive examinations for testing applicants for appointment in the competitive service which are practical in character and as far as possible related to matters that fairly test the relative capacity and fitness of the applicants for the appointment sought . . . an individual may be appointed in the competitive service only if he has passed an examination or is specifically excepted from examination.” Why do you think this requirement exists? Do you think it is a helpful but necessary requirement or a harmful, irrelevant one? Why? 2. How did the Hatch Act limit political activity for government workers? What are the patronage restrictions for government employment? Are these positions conducive to the needs of employees and employers? 3. Civil Service employees can be fired for just cause but according to the text, “ . . . the larger problem is removal of the mediocre.” Often people get redistributed because it is so difficult to fire them. What do you think about this? 4. Turnover is a major problem when staffing political appointees. For decades the median length of service for presidential appointees has been a little more than two years. What are some problems created by rapid turnover? Can these problems be overcome with the existing system? 5. What do you think about the Net Generation? Are you a part of this group? Taking a look at the text’s list of norms for this generation, do you see the attributes listed as largely good characteristics or bad? How will these workers transform government? 6. The text quotes Paul Light’s 2008 book saying that “the federal service is suffering its greatest crisis since it was founded in the first moments of the republic . . . running out of energy [and] unable to faithfully execute all the laws.” In short, Light finds that although government is functioning well, human capital problems are impeding progress at fundamental levels, and only by reforming these problems will the U.S. government be able to rise to its twenty-first-century challenges. From what you have read in this chapter, do you agree with Light: Is the problem of human capital in government as dire as he says, or do you think he is overstating the case? Think of specific examples from the text that would support your claim. 1. Mixed public perceptions of government have suggested that citizens do not fully understand their government. How has public trust in government changed over time? How much trust would you place in government? Do people believe that government is inefficient and wasteful? In your opinion, is government efficient? Do citizens believe elected officials care what Americans think? Do you believe elected officials care what you think? Why do you think there is misunderstanding surrounding citizens’ understanding of government? 2. What is “government by proxy” and how do you feel about it? Does it seem like the best course of action for our government to take given its size and scope? In your opinion, does it increase or hinder government transparency and accountability? 3. One way to understand the work of government is to see public administration not just as a collection of departments, bureaus, and agencies but as a collection of basic tools. Why are the tools categorized as direct and indirect? Grants, contracts, regulations, tax expenditures, and loan programs should each be placed in which category of tools and why? What level of government tends to deal with each of these items (i.e., grants, contracts, and the like)? 4. 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? 5. Political scientist Herbert Kaufman once said that one person’s red tape is another person’s cherished procedural safeguard. Explain this in light of the chapter. What do you think about this? 6. Public management scholar Steven Kelman discusses that although all organizations must balance goals (value they produce or objectives they accomplish) and constraints (rules they must follow), the difference between private and public organizations is the emphasis placed on each. Private organizations emphasize goals—one might say they have the freedom to do so—and public organizations emphasize constraints. How does this influence your thinking about public and private institutions? How might this lead to different job descriptions for leaders in public verses private organizations? How about problems faced and solutions reached?

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