Please Put into your own words! PA301 Assignment w4

Assignment: Administrative Discretion

It is difficult to definitively say
yes or no to the question of whether or not I think 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. Though
from a purely theoretical perspective my opinion would be that in the realm of
affirmative to that question, undoubtedly public administrators should be
restricted to only those rules laid down in the discharge of their duties. I am
of this opinion in the theoretical perspective because this takes as much of
the ‘human’ imperfections from the task of public administration as possible,
which in turn makes the job more efficient in its execution. Efficiency on the
part of public administrators makes for happy people, and when the people are
happy, the duties of the administrators are lessened, as there are fewer
problems which they must deal with, less work makes administrators happy and so
saying efficiency makes everyone happy. Though realistically the results may
very well be different, because you are of course dealing with people, and
people are only predictable to a certain extent, and without sufficient
predictability the outcome becomes incalculable. There is of course the
possibility of a problem arising in which the laid down rules are insufficient
to efficiently complete the task at hand, in which case some amount of
discretion or  “wiggle room” is necessary
for the public administrators to efficiently do their job to the peoples

  First let us explore the advantages
and disadvantages to the theoretical perspective in which efficiency is bred
from public administrators being restricted to only laid down rules in the
discharge of their duties. This perspective also awards the most power possible
to the people under the public administrator, and in our current form of
government, it is suppose to be designed to give the people power. It gives the
people this power by using only the rules that have been laid down that govern
the limits to the power and methods of the public administrators, these rules
were at one point voted on by the people in some form. Because the rules were
voted on by the people, popular vote decreed that these rules are designed to
most benefit the people, and therein lies the peoples power over the public
administrator. The people have then removed discretionary powers from the
public administrator, which ensures, as far as the people are concerned, that
the public administrator is only capable of acting in the people’s best
interest. There are of course disadvantages to this perspective, in this
complex and ever-changing society, there may arise situations in which the
current rules are simply unable to efficiently solve the problems facing the
public administrator. The people under the public administrator are not going
to stop and consider that the rules that bind the public administrator are
ill-equipped to deal with the problem, all the people will see is that the
public administrator is not functioning in their best interest, and that causes
tension. In order for this rule bound perspective to function the rules which
bind the public administrator would have to be reviewed at certain intervals in
order to maintain a rule set that is properly equipped to allow the public
administrator to effectively and efficiently deal with the problems of the
ever-changing landscape in order to best serve the people and maintain a
tension free environment between the public administrator and the people. A
good example of this perspective in practice, I actually have to deal with
locally every day. Whoever it is that is in charge of roads in my area, while
bound by rules that dictate how they handle the making and maintenance of
roads, is unable to serve effectively the people that live on my road. I live
off a dirt road that was cut by contractors that were hired to come back here
and build some houses many decades ago, in their laziness these contractors did
not cut this road to county specifications, and over the years it has turned
into a soupy mud hole with car-eating ruts and all manner of unpleasant things
that make for difficult travel in anything without four wheel drive. Though
this is not a positive example of the perspective at work for me or the people
that live on my road, it has positive results for everyone else, as the county
isn’t spending money to build and maintain approximately a mile of roadway, and
the county still receives taxes from all the people that live back here. Less
spending while still generating revenue is good news for everyone but we that
live back here.

Now should the person in charge of
roads be allowed some personal discretion, we may have a nice paved road back
here simply because we pay taxes, which leads us to the more realistic discretionary
perspective of public administration. I call it more realistic because as fast
as the environment is changing all around us every day it is unreasonable and
would be irresponsible to expect administrators in a modern age to administrate
by rule alone. We would be effectively tying their hands behind their back and
they would get nothing done. This vision has a very obvious disadvantage,
allowing public administrators to act according to their own discretion gives
way for those that are not of a mind to work for the people, whose discretion
will undoubtedly lead to scenarios in which the public administrator will be
acting and enacting things which are not in the best interest of the people.
This is an all too common occurrence in the United States government, people
getting into an office and then acting solely for the benefit of either
themselves or their political friends, completely ignoring what their office is
tasked with, and completely ignoring the will 
and wants of the people. Though that thought is all doom and gloom about
discretion there are people that get into an office for the purpose of serving
the people, like the man in the case study about water contamination that we
wrote about not that long ago. He was clearly of a mind to work for the people,
and strove to do everything within his power, bending rules, and creating new
ones to uniquely solve the problems at hand, which created a solution that was
good for everyone. It was good for him, in that a solution to the problem makes
him look good. It was good for the people under his administrative arm because
he saved them money, and time, and federal wastefulness. It was good for the
corporations involved in the pollution in that they were able to aid in the
solution to the problem while costing them the least amount of money, and
lastly it was good for the companies not involved that would have been held
liable for funding cleanup anyway had the problem gone to superfund. Had he
been limited by only the rules available, this would not have been the case.

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