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Do you think that public administrators should be restricted to only laid down rules in...

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lite49 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted May 27, 2013 at 12:30 PM via web

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Do you think that public administrators should be restricted to only laid down rules in the discharge of their duties as espoused by Max Weber or should they have some amount of discretion?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 27, 2013 at 2:11 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a very difficult question because there are very clear and compelling arguments to be made for either side.  I am not completely sure which side I would ultimately take.  Let me lay out the major argument for each side so that you can make your own decision.

On the one hand, it is important for public administrators to have some discretion so that they can make decisions that seem to make more sense given the totality of the circumstances in a given case.   Let us say that there are penalties for underpaying your taxes.  In early April, your spouse gets in an accident and is critically hurt.  You spend the next two weeks at their side in the hospital as much as possible and are generally very distracted.  You underpay your taxes by a minor amount.  In the situation, it would seem that the IRS bureaucrat should have the ability to forego penalizing you because of the circumstances.

On the other hand, giving public administrators discretion can lead to favoritism and abuse of power or, at the very least, the appearance of such problems.  Let us say that a local small business wants to have a sign that is bigger than what is allowable.  The public administrator in charge of such things rejects their request.  Now imagine that a big business comes in and wants to do the same thing.  It has made political contributions to the mayor’s campaign fund.  It has contributed money to the city to improve its parks.  The big business is allowed to do what the small business was not allowed to do.  It may be that there were legitimate reasons for this, but it will clearly make some people, at least, suspect that the administrator has abused their discretion.

Both of these are very clear and compelling arguments.  If you are writing an essay on this, you should decide which makes more sense to you so that you can write a convincing argument for that side.

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