Ethics in public administration – book review and critics essay

Adam and Balfour have won the coveted Louis Brown low Award of the National Academy of Public Administration (1998) and Best Book Award of the Academy of Management in the same year for their book “ Unmasking Administrative Evil”. Guy Adams and Danny Balfour authored first American reading to deal on the question of holocaust and the problem of public administration and public policy. Their study mainly deals with public administration leaving public policy in a low profile. The authors put forth their finding in an assertive way with a certain scientific –analytical outlook and exposing their faith in technological progress.

According to authors, technical rationality is being displayed in the disguise of administrative evil. Thus the administrative evil is veiled in such a manner that gullible does not have the mental capability to recognize when they are ‘ deliberately and knowingly’ trying to impose suffering and pain on other human beings. Thus, this self-dishonesty abetted and aided by modern organizations which compartmentalize functions and roles and disseminate individual responsibilitiesThus, the war atrocities in Europe during 1939 and 1945 itself will speak about the holocaust which is the main paradigm of the Adams –Balfour study. The so called organizational features of “ Nazi State “ and especially the machinery of obliteration which put forward as a final solution to the Jewish problem was nothing but technical rationality . According to authors , evil is not a foreign inspiration in the social sciences and more relevantly associated with poets and theologians tussle.

Thus, the term evil administration is totally connote in opposition of even-handed, impartial and efficient management of government and its policies For a gullible public or for an academic , the term evil administration may depict the process by which about 5 to 6 million people were methodically routed from their houses and asked to march to edge of their villages where they were shot inhumanly or herded into ghettoes , transported to slaughter centers and gassed and their bodies reduced to ashes and their existence annihilated from the face of the earth. In the book, the authors have just begun to explore the impact of administrative evil for the professions and reveal how it accelerates the kind of self-examination in public administration and other professional fields. The book mainly concentrates on ‘ administrative evil’ which can inflict suffering and pain deliberately and unintentionally but willingly to attain organizational goals. Unintentionally in the sense that it is administratively got sterile, acknowledged as coherent and appropriate in terms of efficiency. As it is steriled, the knowledge that it has inflicting pain which is disguised and it is not apparent. The authors recalled here how the extermination of Jews was carried out systematically and deliberately in support of their phenomenon. This has offered an opportunity to be aware of the magnitude of horror those who wants to realize and improve organisation by resorting to extend application of rational –legal ideas and governmental machinery’s efficiency to the target of extermination. For instance, authors have pointed out that the contemporary, technical and rational advancement to public administration was stick on in every aspect.

Further, they have reminded us with example how the German Rail authorities invoiced the Gestapo at the third class rate by offering liberal discounts to children and group concessional rate for group of 400 or more travelers in their journey to death camps and thus the whole communities were driven to their catastrophe. The Book also cited how SS-supplied slaves were used for building V2 rockets by Germans. Thus slaves with technical skills from the camp Mittelbau-Dora were supplied for Mittel work factory. It was said that though they built around 6000 rockets in a period of two years but more than 20, 000 deaths were reported. Thus human deaths by accident while making the rocket surpassed the number of rockets actually produced! The project leader Von Braun and about 120 members were whisked off to US, though nearly 50% of them were Nazi party members while other Nazi members of rocket factory were tried after the war. This Nazi project team was given protection in US, their erstwhile records were destroyed and finally they were sanitized. Later, they were made in-charges of US missile program and equipped US in facing threats from the USSR in the cold war era. The two roles played by Von Braun was highlighted in the book .

One as the project leader in Nazi’s camps and wielding his powers in the business of making missiles and the other being his role in US by equipping it with latest missiles to protect against it from USSR threats. Thus, the main purpose of the system rather than its administrative evil would have to be viewed. Von Braun was accused for the technical snags in the missile trajectory program which ultimately caused failure of challenger under the leadership of Dr .

William Lucas and his team, which was trained by Von. The authors acknowledge the “ recognisation of administrative evil is a predicament’ in the Challenger mishap. Authors recalled the Tuskegee trial on Afro-American prisoners, captivity of Japanese Americans in World War II and some similar cases and reminded us that “ American public administration also seizes a highly sensitive capability for administrative evil. Authors are of the view that ‘ scientific-analytic mind-set and technical –rational approach to political and social problems facilitates a novel and startling form of evil –administrative evil “. Contemporary public administration is based on and protracted by methodical abuse, dehumanization and even extinction . Thus, a major unmasking is the only remedy available. The authors reiterate that Stanford Prisoner incident where within six days, ordinary students assigned to be guards who were grossly maltreating and de-humanizing those assigned to perform the role of prisoners and Milgram experiments like infusing destructive electric shocks in the interest of science stick in one’s gorge and feel that it deserves for clarification. Thus, atrocities, holocaust unleashed in Central Europe, Africa, devastation in Chechnya, Grozny which demand reasons with the power to equal their horror.

This book stresses more moral and egalitarian public life which identifies its prospective for evil and shut the doors for state-supported annihilation and dehumanization. Millions and millions of human life have been destroyed due to state-supported violence. Thus, modern administration is interlinked and interconnected with destructiveness or administrative evil.

The book is short of strong arguments, broader thinking, and more reasoned categories while presenting the mixture of examples. Further, book must have explained all miseries and sorrows either it was in Nazi camp or in Stanford experiments more vividly and seems to be lacking in its seriousness. However though the book may be considered an indistinct and only symbolic at times, but whistle blowing act like Holocaust, the idea of administration evil is surely a diagnostic starting and an alarm call. The book is no doubt a courageous one as it is a mystery that no established organizational theory henceforth willing to tackle. Some critics is of the view that Adams and Balfour have failed to explain the standards for a type of scholarship and their work is only rhetoric and argumentative. Critics are of the view that authors do not have corroborative evidence for proving ‘ the type of evidentiary support’, one might anticipate for such a contentious analysis and their argument is just reflect their irresponsibleness. This book exposes the truth that it is apparent that a government is working for the welfare of its people but if one digs at the bottom , he may surprised to find that it is doing the other way , that is , a moral inversion , an act that is destructive or evil rechristened as “ superior and commendable “. In Europe, Adolf Hitler or Mussolini might have responsible for holocaust or administrative evil.

Is the so called largest democracy of the world, U. S. A is free from these holocausts? Certainly not, if one analyse the on-going public lynching, radiation, syphilis, LSD experiments in their military and brutality leashed by the police with full support of administration. The authors illustrate the powers that let loose such events are part and parcel of modernity and have their existence in all modern current public organizations.

Thus, this book is aiming at and strongly advocates for an efficient and humane professional administration.