Is Public Administration Public?

Having heard the president of the United States address the Joint Session of Congress in both systemic and transactional norms, where does the field of “public administration” enter into this lingo?  Do you not think our language is “old hat?”  Should we now have another concept to this whole field of contention that involves public, private, government, politics, policymaking infrastructure?  As the field of study developed, we remember separating politics from bureaucracy, and we came up with the classification of “public administration.”  It is not valid in the 21st century.  We must be realistic in understanding what we are doing.  The umbrella of public administration does not cover this profession any longer.  Who wants to carry the ball to make things happen, and change the name of our profession?  Once upon a time we were known as the “manufacturers of red tape.”

These days we too are involved in “bucking the system.”  In the English language BUCK has several interpretations.  Among the descriptive meanings are, when a horse tries to buck his rider – the horse is trying to unseat his rider by leaping with an arched back and landing with stiffened forelegs.  In football the “bucking” is to charge into the opposing line with head down.  Beyond the concept of resistance and obstinacy, a buck is a kind of leather covered frame in the shape of a sawhorse used by gymnasts in vaulting exercises. 

To buck the bureaucracy is not to thwart it, but to educate its personnel in operations and systems .  Without the regimentation of bureaucracy, knowing “what color socks go in which bureau drawer,” chaos is created.  Bureaucracy, as a term, should generate positive activity rather than smerks of inefficiency.  It also means that our academic systems, divided into public administration and business management have to fuse in order for the public and private sectors to work hand in hand for future generations. The president of the United States cannot demand this fusion and expect us to accept it gracefully.


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