It’s a debate that’s over 130 years old in American politics. It might be old but it’s still new.
Mark Spicer wrote a text entitled, In Defense of Politics in Public Administration: A Value Pluralist Perspective. Published by the University of Alabama Press, the publisher wrote on the jacket:
Scholars of public administration have historically often shunned the presence of politics in the field, viewing partisan interests as opportunities for corruption, mismanagement, and skewed priorities. Supporters of this anti-political stance have become even more strident in recent years with many scholars advancing scientific models for the study and practice of public administration. Michael W. Spicer argues that politics deserves to be defended as a vital facet of public administration on the grounds that it can promote moral conduct in government and public administration, principally by bringing to the foreground the role of values in administrative practice. Politics can facilitate the resolution of conflicts that naturally arise from competing values, or conceptions of the good, while minimizing the use of force or violence.
Spicer bolsters the moral and qualitative aspects of public administration in the US. He disagrees with Wilson’s seminal article on the subject, to a point. It’s also clear that he doesn’t completely agree with Waldo and others who support the blending of the two topics.
There is an ongoing debate that PAR is too quantitative. The journal does not provide enough information for the practitioner. PA Times provides the practitioner the information as a result of these concerns. But do we, as ASPA members, rely too much on numbers to convince our constituents of the “right thing to do” rather than relying upon the common values that exist throughout a community, a state, or a nation? Are we relying upon “numbers” to protect ourselves from the political fight that often draws us into the fray? Do these numbers convey values?
There are many questions that Spicer’s very good book brings to our attention. I look forward to discussing them with you all.