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A Global Threat 7
Complex 7

Public Administration Ethics:

James Svaras Model
Ryan C. Urbano

Journal of Human Values

20(1) 717
2014 Management Centre
for Human Values
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0971685813515604

Ethical issues arising from public administration are quite complex and difficult. Using a monistic
normative ethical approach to these issues may not be very helpful. Thus James Svaras three-pronged
approach to public administration ethics is proposed in order to show its plausibility. The case of
Dr Stockman in Henrik Ibsens play An Enemy of the People is examined as a way of demonstrating the
significance of Svaras model.
Civil servants, ethical analysis, public administration, Svaras ethical problem-solving model to public
administration ethics, whistle-blowing

This article highlights James Svaras problem-solving model in public administration ethics. The case of
Dr Stockman in Henrik Ibsens play An Enemy of the People will be examined in order to demonstrate
how Svaras model can work in a situation of similar nature as in Ibsens play and whether the same
model is plausible to adopt in public administration ethics in general. Specifically, the article will be
guided by the question: If one were in Dr Stockmans position as the towns medical officer (that is, a
civil servant), what would one do and why? Svaras ethical problem-solving model to moral issues in
public administration is three-pronged in the sense that it employs the three major theories of Western
normative ethics, namely: deontology (principle- or duty-based ethics), consequentialism and virtue
ethics. Aside from the fact that there are many reasons for moral behaviour as Williams (2011, pp. 910)
suggests, the application of a single normative ethical theory, according to Svara, may not be sufficient
in solving complex ethical issues in public administration. Moral issues arising in politics, including
public administration, could become messy so that it blurs the distinction between our moral ideals and
what is practical and realistic (Coady, 2008). For Svara, ethical issues in public administration could be
best addressed if the three standard theories of Western normative ethics are viewed as complementing
each other. Ethical theories, Martin (2001, p. 36) argues, should not be viewed as competing foundational principles; rather, they should be construed as alternative ways of systematizing our view of
morality and as general frameworks for organizing moral reflection and for developing moral

Ryan C. Urbano, Chair, Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies, University of San Carlos, Philippines.
India Quarterly, 66, 2 (2010): 133149
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Ryan C. Urbano

The article will first give a synopsis of Ibsens play before it will analyze and apply Svaras
(2007, p. 108) ethical problem-solving model to Dr Stockmans case.

Synopsis of Ibsens An Enemy of the People

Dr Thomas Stockman is a medical officer of the municipal baths in a coastal town in Norway where his
brother, Peter Stockman, is the Mayor. The municipal baths, known for their therapeutic value, have
recently attracted many visitors. The baths have given economic prosperity to the townbusinesses
have thrived, the property value of the houses and the lands have increased and unemployment has
diminished. But the towns economic success is in jeopardy upon Dr Stockmans discovery that the
baths have been polluted by the waste products coming from the towns tanneries. This contamination
has caused serious illness to some tourists. Wary of the danger the baths pose to the health of the visitors,
Dr Stockman reported his findings to his brother, the Mayor, with a proposal to fix the conduit pipes that
have poisoned the baths. But the Mayor rejected his report, warned him not to announce it in public, and
even wanted him to withhold the report from the baths committee, mainly due to the costly rehabilitation
of the baths that would burden the taxpayers and the financial loss of the town following the baths
closure. Determined to bring his case to the public, Dr Stockman organized a town meeting in order to
inform his fellow townsmen of the problem and to gain their support. To his dismay, the meeting turned
out to be utterly against his favour. He found out that those whom he initially counted for support had
betrayed him. The townsfolk rejected his claim for they were told that a considerable amount of their
taxes would be used for the baths rehabilitationan expenditure they deemed unnecessary; otherwise
the baths would be closed and this would spell their towns economic recession. Dr Stockman, unfazed
by the pressure of political authorities as well as the demands of the crowd, stubbornly held to his
conviction and called them (perhaps he was carried away by his emotion) contemptible names such as
stupid, ill-bred and vermin. This angered the crowd and they passed a resolution branding him an
enemy of the people. As a consequence, Dr Stockman paid dearly for his action because he lost his job
and his family suffered.

J. Svaras Ethical Problem-solving Model

Clarification of the facts of the situation
Dr Stockman suspected that the municipal baths have been contaminated and this has caused serious
illness to some visitors in the previous year. Most of the illnesses of the tourists were typhoid cases and
gastric fever. He sent samples of the water to the University for examination in order to verify
and confirm his suspicions. This he did without the knowledge of the Mayor and the members of the
municipal baths committee. His fear was confirmed when one day he received a letter saying that indeed
the baths were contaminated and infected with infusoria.
When the baths were constructed, Dr Stockman had objected to the place where the water pipes were
located because they were quite low and near the drainage of the town tanneries. His objection, however,
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Public Administration Ethics 9

fell on deaf ears. So he made a personal investigation to ascertain his suspicion that there may be a link
between the tourists sickness and the baths. This led to his discovery that the baths were indeed
Because of his findings, Dr Stockman wrote a detailed report on the condition of the baths and offered
a proposal to build a sewer that would screen and trap the wastes from the towns tanneries away from
the pipes which supplied water to the baths and to relay the pipes as well. He submitted the report to the
Mayor, his brother, with the intention of presenting it also to the baths committee for review. Meanwhile,
the information that the baths were contaminated had already leaked out to some people in the media
who were Dr Stockmans friends and to some important people of the town. The Mayor however rejected
the report because he thought it lacked substantial evidence and that the engineer he consulted said that
it would cost approximately 20,000 pounds of tax-payers money to make the necessary adjustments of
the baths, and that the work needed to accomplish this would take up to at least two years. He also
warned Dr Stockman not to submit the report to the baths committee and expose the case to the public.
His reason was that they would lose visitors in favour of other municipalities that also had their own
baths and this would lead to their towns financial ruin. But since the information contained in the report
had already been disclosed to some people, the Mayor ordered Dr Stockman to downplay his findings by
making a public announcement that the condition of the baths was not so critical and dangerous as what
he initially thought and that he would support and publicly affirm [his] confidence in the present
directors to take thorough and conscientious measures, as necessary, to rectify any possible defects
(Ibsen, 1970, p. 154). Dr Stockman disregarded the Mayors advice and expressed his intention to pursue
the case in public. He argued that he had a duty to protect the health of the visitors who came to their
town in good faith and pay exorbitant fees to gain their health back again (Ibsen, 1970, p. 150).
He added that the public also had the right to know the truth.
Stakeholder analysis
In the situation outlined above, there are many stakeholders whose interests are potentially affected.
The stakeholders are the Mayor (political authority), the town (organization), the tourists (clients), the
businessmen (that is, co-investors of the baths, the tradesmen and hostel owners) and Dr Stockman
himself and his family. If Dr Stockman disregarded the Mayors stern advice, then he would be
manifesting disloyalty to his political superior. This means, in the words of the Mayor himself:
Without moral authority I could hardly guide and direct affairs in the way I believe serves the general
welfare (Ibsen, 1970, p. 152). If Dr Stockman goes public to announce the problem, he sidesteps the
democratic process of resolving the issue internally within the organization and avoids exhausting all
the possible mechanisms provided by the organization itself. And this can be seen as a lack of respect
for the organization. If, on the one hand, the baths are to be closed, then the tourist will surely be drawn
away from the town and this implies that the town will lose a substantial part of their income because the
baths, as Dr Stockman himself says, are the towns main artery and nerve center (Ibsen, 1970, p. 134).
This could also mean that businessmen will suffer because their investments will go to waste. And if
the baths are to be repaired, this will take up to at least two years and it will cost the town and its
co-investors a large amount of money for the repair. Moreover, they could not afford to close the baths
because there are neighbouring towns which have municipal baths with amenities attractive enough to
draw tourists.
If, on the other hand, the baths will not be closed, then the consequences might even be more disastrous
in the long run. Many visitors might get sick because of the infection and this would mean the death of
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Ryan C. Urbano

the towns tourism industry. Perhaps spending a lot of tax-payers money for the rehabilitation of
the baths would be worthwhile after all, rather than losing their primary means of income. So, if
Dr Stockman will not disclose the truth to the public, he and the town will endanger the health of the
tourists. As a doctor, he has pledged to uphold his professions oath of protecting people from sickness.
He also thinks that it is his duty as a civil servant to inform the public, through proper channels, about
the true condition of the baths. But he was forewarned by the Mayor that he will be dismissed from his
office if he fails to recant his position.

Determining Dr Stockmans duty in the situation above considering the obligations and responsibilities
of his position and his professional role
As a medical officer of the municipal baths, Dr Stockmans main obligation is to demonstrate his loyalty
to the town as an organization. He has the duty to promote public interest, display a commitment to
serve, commit to procedural fairness, exercise fiduciary responsibility, uphold the law, support the
democratic process and be responsive to the policy goals of political superiors while fairly examining
all policy options and exercising leadership appropriate to position (Svara, 2007, p. 28). He must
know what the organization and his political superiors expect him to do in terms of his responsibility
and accountability in the exercise of his role as a municipal medical officer. His primary duty is to
obey and defer to the judgment and decisions of his political superiors. As the Mayor in Ibsens play
says: The individual has to learn to subordinate himself to the wholeor, I should say, to those
authorities charged with the common good (Ibsen, 1970, p. 127). So, one of Dr Stockmans duties as a
civil servant is to promote public health in terms of maintaining the cleanliness and sanitation of the
baths. Connected to this duty is his obligation to protect the health of the tourists who use the baths. He
also has the duty to observe and uphold the economic goals and established policies of the town. And if
necessary, make recommendations (in terms of policies and research) he deems important as a steward
of public resources for the proper maintenance of the baths as well as how best to protect the health of
the tourists.
Dr Stockmans professional duty is basically defined by his profession as a medical doctor. And his
primary duty in this professional capacity is to render service to anyone who needs medical attention and
to protect them from illness. Svara noted that there are situations wherein there is a tension between
ones duty as a public administrator and ones duty as a professional (Svara, 2007, p. 111). In the case
under examination, this tension is seen in Dr Stockmans duty as a public administrator to uphold the
economic goals of the town concerning the baths as an income-generating venture and obedience to
the legitimate orders of his superiors, on one hand, and in his duty as a doctor which is to protect the
tourists whose health is jeopardised by the contaminated baths, on the other hand. But if Dr Stockman
does not do something to protect the health of the tourists which could lead to grave illness or even death,
he would be held morally responsible and his conscience cannot tolerate this. And granting that he
discloses to the public that the baths are contaminated, the Mayor will dismiss him from his job and his
family will suffer as a consequence.
Although a public administrators obligations to the organization and to his political superiors are
very important because of his accountability to the public (or fiduciary responsibility), these obligations
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Public Administration Ethics 11

in some occasions are not necessarily binding. Svara says that a public administrators obligations to the
organization and to political authority must be weighed against the professional standards, which reflect
the recommended practices of the professional group, and an assessment of how to best serve the public
interest (Svara, 2007, p. 111). In other words, a public administrator has to balance his obligations as a
civil servant with that of his professional obligations without losing sight of his main goal which is to
promote public interest. In the case of Dr Stockman, the challenge he has to address concerning the
tension between his obligations as a civil servant and as a professional (that is, as a doctor) is: How can
the public interest be advanced in this situation? (Svara, 2007, p. 109).
Analysing the situation according to each ethical approach
Svara strongly suggests that administrators must perform their duty to promote public welfare by
seeking a balance of virtue, principle, and good consequences. Virtue alone is not enough because an
administrator who thinks he has already the virtue to run his office might underestimate or overlook
consequences. He might become overconfident and self-righteous that he becomes complacent and
disregards the common good. To offset this tendency in a virtue approach to public administration, a civil
servant has to follow external principles that guide him how and what to decide when faced with a
difficult situation. He must decide based on clear and tested principles to avoid confusion and mistakes
in his decisions that compromise public interest. However, to rely solely on principles already in place
in the bureaucratic system might lead the public administrator to deny personal responsibility for ones
own actions, policies and decisions and put the blame on the system itself if things go awry (Sheeran,
1993, p. 149; see also Adams & Balfour, 2008). Or, if this is not the case, the public administrator may
not be able to properly assess the facts of the situation whereupon his decision is to be made because
principles are rigid, too general and therefore vague, and sometimes difficult to apply to the real situation.
For example, in Dr Stockmans case, though he is obliged to apply the principle of truth-telling by virtue
of the publics right to information whose interest is at stake, it is not clear how Dr Stockman must apply
this principle in such a way that it will not lead to the towns financial loss, the businessmens investments
will not go to waste, workers will not lose their jobs, the tourists health will not be jeopardized and his
family will not suffer. Strictly applying the principle without regard to results misses an important
component of a civil servants moral duty to maximize beneficial consequences to the public and equal
consideration of the interests of the stakeholders.
Virtue based
A morally good civil servant who is in Dr Stockmans shoes must possess strength of character when
confronted with a difficult decision on how to promote public welfare. He must display such virtues as
honesty, benevolence, respect, responsibility and prudence. Regarding the virtue of honesty, Dr Stockman
ought not to withhold the truth about his findings of the real situation of the baths both to his
political superiors and to the public in general. He must ensure public transparency of information.
Benevolence is manifested in Dr Stockmans inner character in preventing harm to the tourists who use
the baths and in promoting public interest by helping his towns economic development. Respect is
exhibited in Dr Stockmans high regard for public authority and in the democratic and procedural
processes. Responsibility is achieved in taking good care of the job entrusted to him by his political
superiors and by exercising public accountability. Prudence can be shown if Dr Stockman is able to
balance and harmonise the interests of his town, political superiors, fellow town citizens, the tourists and
his own familys interest.
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Principle based
Dr Stockman must not only approach his situation from the perspective of virtue ethics. He must also
consider the ethical and political principles applicable to his case. So one important principle he has to
apply to his situation is democracy. In a democracy one needs to respect the opinions of others. So in the
case of Dr Stockman, though he has moral and political convictions, he must also consider the decisions
of his political superiors as well as of his fellow members in the committee of the municipal baths.
He must not take matters solely into his own hands. As a civil servant, he has to uphold the law of the
town as a political organization, particularly existing policies concerning the municipal baths.
Another principle he has to observe is the principle of truth-telling. In Dr Stockmans case, he has to
apply this principle by informing his political superiors and the public of the true condition of the baths.
He must also defend the principle of the sanctity of life by warning the public of the danger posed by the
polluted baths.
Consequence based
Analysing the cost and benefit of Dr Stockmans options in the situation is another important element in
his decision-making process. His main duty is to promote public interest. How this duty can be effectively
carried out requires not only the moral quality of his character (virtue) as a public servant and his ability
to apply fundamental ethical and political principles but also the foresight to examine the results of his
decisions or choices. He needs, for example, to consider the impact of his decisions to the organization,
political superiors, businessmen, workers and to his own family. Equal consideration of the stakeholders
interests is required by his duty to promote the public good.
At this point, it is important to note that ethical analysis is useful for reminding a civil servant of the
broad constraints on his search for alternatives. They often do not consistently point to a single right
thing to do. Hence the next stage is necessary.
List of options
Looking at Dr Stockmans present predicament yields three possible options. Either (a) he follows the
appropriate procedure of resolving a problem set in place by the town as an organization and defers to
the judgment of his political superior (that is, the Mayor); (b) he informs the public about the contaminated baths (blow the whistle); or (c) he resigns from his position, discloses the information to the
public as an ordinary citizen and looks for employment elsewhere. Option (c) is actually a variant of
option (b). Dr Stockman, after whistle-blowing, will either resign straightaway or wait and see whether
he would be fired or forced to resign. Moreover, option (a) and option (b/c) could be seen as not mutually
exclusive; they can be considered sequentially, that is, b/c is an option if option (a) fails to work.

Choosing the best alternative
Option (a) is tenable but Dr Stockman risks endangering the health of the tourists, although no such risk
occurs if option (a) works or results in a satisfactory solution to the problem. Option (b) is too costly on
his part because of the Mayors stern warning that he will lose his job. And this could be a reason why
Dr Stockman should first try option (a). Besides, whistle-blowing in his case will no longer work because
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Public Administration Ethics 13

the information has already leaked out to some members of the media and he has already told the Mayor
about it. In fact, that leaking by Dr Stockman is already whistle-blowing. One of the requirements for
effective whistle-blowing after all internal procedural mechanisms provided by the organization has
been exhausted (that is, option (a), as broadly and properly understood) is to reveal a defect or
misbehaviour in the organization anonymously in order to avoid retaliation. But it seems that this
requirement is not satisfied in Dr Stockmans case.
Option (c) is possible but Dr Stockman must first consider that resignation must only be resorted to if
all possible internal mechanisms within the organization have been exhausted. He must not give up too
easily. As Svara (2007, p. 103) explains:
Officials should not resign for frivolous reasons or refuse to follow orders because they would prefer a different
approach or outcome than does their superior. They must be sensitive, however, to situations when important
consequences are at stake and when their action or inaction will violate an important principle, break the law,
inflict harm on innocent persons, or cause substantial waste of resources. Then they must carefully weigh all the
facts, responsibilities, ethical perspectives, and options, and make a reasoned and defensible choice.

As a public servant, part of Dr Stockmans duty is not only to uphold the law and the policy goals of
his organization but also to improve on the law through the governmental process; for example, by
conducting research on needs and by policy recommendations (Svara, 2007, p. 25). His commitment to
public service implies that he must persist and persevere in order to carry out the tasks entrusted to him
by his superiors as well as by the public.
It would have been prudent for Dr Stockman to first report the information to his political superior
and recommend proposals to remedy the problem. As a civil servant, it is his duty to respect democratic
procedure, faithfully fulfil the policies and goals of the organization and to show honesty in the
identification of needs and problems pertaining to his specific role. This is option (a) as described above.
Providing a reasoned justification for the decision
As already mentioned, option (a) is the best alternative for Dr Stockman. It would have been wise for him
to first resolve the problem internally in order not to cause panic to the public which could lead to protests
and demands detrimental to a democratic order. This is also the prudent thing to do because it spares him
from the risk of losing his job. Subscribing to the proper method of troubleshooting a problem required by
the organizational set-up does not violate the principle of truth-telling or denying the public of their right to
information. This is so because the political authority, which represents the people in a democratic society
and which is directly accountable to them, has been informed. In other words, the people are indirectly
informed when the individuals whom they have chosen to represent them have been informed. After all,
political authority derived its mandate to rule from the people themselves. So here, the apparent conflict
between the duty to respect the democratic process and political authority on the one hand and the duty to
respect the right of the public to be informed on the other hand are reconciled and are both upheld.
Although Dr Stockman is accountable to the people as a public official, he is also accountable to the
organization and political authority he serves. Though he may be convinced that he has the moral duty
to inform and alert the public of the danger posed by the contaminated baths, he also has the duty to
support democratic procedure in place in the organization. Dr Stockmans responsibility as a public
administrator is inextricably linked to institutions and processes of democracy. John Burke calls
this notion of responsibility procedurally grounded conception of responsibility (Burke, 1994, p. 468).
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So Dr Stockman needs to go through the difficult route of democratic process in getting his moral
predicament resolved before he attempts to opt for extra-organizational means of realizing his moral
conviction or belief. As Svara (2007, p. 25) argues:
The ethical obligation to uphold the law requires that one subjugate ones personal beliefs (i.e. ones sense
of morality) to discharge the duties of the office. Furthermore, it is a violation of administrative ethics to
substitute ones own view of morality for law and policy. The administrator can seek to change the policy
through appropriate channels and methods within his or her organization, but if these efforts are not successful
he or she must accept the established policy. If one cannot subjugate their personal morals to the law,
however, he or she should change positions or leave administrative office to seek to change the policy as a citizen
through the political process. He or she should not ignore the law nor try to covertly undermine it.

Arguably, Dr Stockmans effort to follow the democratic process was not good enough. He did not
really fully exhaust the available channels or methods within the organization. His reaction to the
Mayors disagreement to his plan was somehow excessive because he immediately exposed the defect
of the baths to the community. Part of his obligation as administrator is to encourage his political
superiors to fulfil their responsibilities (Svara, 2007, p. 43). He should have known that there was still
time to find ways to influence his superiors because the summer season when tourists visit is still distant.
A better solution to the problem could have been achieved had he reconsidered the ways to make his
proposal agreeable to his political superior. So when the mayor expressed his objections to Dr Stockmans
report and his unwillingness to have it presented to the baths committee, it was advisable and prudent for
Dr Stockman to consider agreeing with the mayor and then revising his report to adjust to the objections.
Dr Stockman should have thought that civil servants, in the words of Svara, are not sole practitioners
who set up their own practice. They operate within an authority structure, they work with others to
advance organisational mission, and they have a responsibility to make the organization as strong,
effective, and ethical as possible (Svara, 2007, p. 5). Though the mayor warned him not to disclose the
information, he could have sought the opinion of the other members of the committee of the municipal
baths. These members also have the right to be informed of the real condition of the baths. Perhaps, his
proposals, with the backing of the committee members, will be considered or at least an agreement could
be reached without compromising all the interests of the stakeholders. By disclosing the information to
the public without giving the committee a chance to review and decide on the issue could be construed
as Dr Stockmans imposition of his own judgment over the judgment of the committee. Failing to seek
the opinion of these members perhaps indicate a lack of deliberation and prudence on his part as a public
administrator. In fact the committee should be informed because withholding information from them is
tantamount to undermining their authority and this will weaken their power as a policy-making or
implementing body that oversees the operation of the municipal baths.
It was also improper for the mayor to instruct Dr Stockman to withhold his report from the committee.
And Dr Stockman himself could have firmly, but nicely, reminded the mayor of this procedural
requirement. By doing so, the mayor might have been much less reluctant to follow this requirement if
he (Dr Stockman) has agreed to revise the report to consider the mayors objections.
When Dr Stockman claimed that what he did was in the name of public interest, this does not imply
that he has untrammelled discretion to do as he deems right. Indeed he has the authority and the expertise
in handling the situation being a medical officer of the municipal baths, but he also needs to consider the
political, economic and social implications of his decisions. As to the political, economic and social
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Public Administration Ethics 15

impact of his plan or recommendation, he may not have the expertise and sufficient knowledge to deal
with them. And this means that he needs to consult with his political superiors and fellow administrators
who can best handle the matter in the best possible way. Moreover, Dr Stockman had not considered all
consequences of his solution. He could have used the collective resources of the organization to search
for and evaluate alternatives including his own.
Perhaps Dr Stockmans failure was that he prematurely revealed the information about the baths to his
friends in the media without first informing the Mayor and the members of the committee of the municipal
baths. The Mayor had a point when he said to Dr Stockman: But I most definitely must insist that all
necessary steps be taken and carried out in a businesslike manner by the legally constituted authorities.
I cant condone any sly or underhanded activities (Ibsen, 2007, p. 127). This is quite clear that the Mayor
himself insisted on proper channels; so Stockman should have little difficulty in getting him to send the
revised report to the committee.
If Dr Stockman doubted that his proposal, upon his discovery that the baths were contaminated, will
not be accepted by his political superiors because of his prior experience when his objection to the wrong
position of the conduit pipes supplying water to the baths (which now is the reason for contamination)
was not listened to, he must at least give political authority the benefit of the doubt. He cannot assume
that political authority will suppress his recommendation on the ground that political authority sets the
policies and goals of the organisation and his role is simply to implement those policies. While it is
true that he cannot violate the law of the organization he serves as well as go against its policies and
goals, still he can go beyond the law in the sense that [he] understands the reason for the law, is able to
relate it to broader reasons for ethical action, and is capable of questioning whether change in the law
or in policy or program goalsshould be considered (Svara, 2007, pp. 21, 34). So Dr Stockman cannot
be cynical or at least cannot allow his cynicism to dictate his actions. Moreover, there is no reason to be
cynical if he has good arguments and adequate opportunities for persuading the committee that something
has to be done to address their present predicament.
One important justification in choosing option (a) is that public administrators in a democratic
organization have more discretion and autonomy in dealing with situations relating to their specific roles
within their organization (Herring, 1997, p. 76). They have the knowledge, expertise and the experience
to handle problems within the parameters of their job. They also have the time to focus their attention on
issues and problems affecting their positions. All these resources should enable them to make good
arguments and persuade effectively their political superiors. Studies also indicate that civil servants act
according to the sense of values or their sense of belief so that in the end what determines what government is and how it serves common interest is largely interpreted, shaped and determined by public
administrators, especially by the so-called street level bureaucrats (invisible men) who directly interact
with people (see Svara, 2007, pp. 4142; Yates, 1981). It follows then that they are not mere passive
instruments or cogs in the wheel of political authority that simply carry orders from above. Rather, they
bring ethical values and professional norms and expertise to their positions, and it is appropriate to
draw on these sources in making recommendations and deciding whether to carry out instructions
(Svara, 2007, p. 38). If this is the case, then there is a need to check and control the behaviour of these
bureaucrats from outside (external control) in order to avoid excesses and abuses in the exercise of their
discretionary powers and in order to hold them accountable for their roles and obligations. Giving public
administrators too much power in their roles might tempt them to serve only their own interest instead
of that of the public. This explains why public administrators need to observe the ethical and legal
norms of their profession.
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Based on this assumption, Dr Stockman should have restrained himself or exercised self-control
before making a drastic move in disclosing the information to the public. His intention may be considered
laudable in the sense that he is honest, but possessing this virtue is not sufficient. As Svara (2007, p. 52)
says, the truly virtuous administrator may be good but not know how to do good, not know which way
to be good among alternatives, and not know how to distinguish being good as a private person and as
an administrator. Moreover, Svara pointed out in his triangle approach to ethics that if one is convinced
that he already has the virtue, there is a tendency to overlook the real meaning of public interest, disregard
political authority and organizational goals and policies and ignore consequences that benefit the public.
Over-reliance on the virtue approach leads to self-righteousness and makes one complacent. One may be
so convinced that one is already virtuous that he thinks that his decision is already right to the point of
disregarding the opinion of others. Dr Stockmans behaviour seems to exhibit this tendency because of
his assertiveness and combativeness in relating to political authority and in the manner he fulfils his
moral beliefs and convictions. Dr Stockman was so confident of his service to the community and so
enamoured with his ideals of truth and freedom that he somehow ignored the negative consequences of
his decision, especially those that might befall his family. He should have heeded Aslaksens advice in
the play: I always make every effort for moderation. Because moderation is a citizens chief virtue
in my opinion, anyway (Ibsen, 1970, p. 145). Elsewhere, Aslaksen also said: Proceed in moderation,
or youll never get anywhere. You can trust my word on that, because Ive gleaned my experience in the
school of life (Ibsen, 1970, p. 146).
Monitoring and evaluation of results. Making adjustments if necessary
Suppose Dr Stockman failed to convince and change the opinion of his political superior regarding the
baths after exhausting all the available internal mechanisms (or going through the democratic procedure),
then the next best option for him is to stay in office and fight the issue from within. He could have blown
the whistle with more care. In this way, he keeps his job and thereby secures his familys interests. In the
play, Dr Stockman blew the whistle prematurely and this was very costly on his part.
The next option is to resign and seek a solution to the problem concerning the baths as a private
citizen. This is option (c) as previously described. I think the value of the sanctity of human life and the
duty to protect others (the tourists) from harm is too important a value to be sacrificed in exchange for
economic benefit. Though the town and its people depend so much on the baths for a living, the value of
human life is of paramount importance. Undoubtedly, human life has priority over economic value. In
the end, ethical decision-making in public administration is a matter of balancing public values, and on
this regard, public administrators are left on their own to ultimately decide which public value or values
should prevail when these values conflict with one another (see Yates, 1981, p. 38). In promoting public
interest, public administrators are required to maintain the delicate balance of accountability and
independence, responsiveness and neutrality, and deference and assertiveness in their relationship to
political superiors (Svara, 2007, p. 45).

In pointing out the relevance of Svaras problem-solving model to public administration ethics using
Ibsens play An Enemy of the People, two main stages for discussion have been laid down. First, there is
the stage of working within the system by exhausting formal channels in solving issues in public
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Public Administration Ethics 17

administration. Second, there is the option of whistle-blowing when all formal channels have been
exhausted and the desired result is not achieved. The first or earlier stage is more important for civil
servants than the second. Civil servants should not only follow formal channels, but also should do
everything in their capacity to ensure that these channels would produce the decision that they think is
best. If all civil servants do this, the need to consider whistle-blowing would rarely arise. This does not
mean, however, that civil servants will just simply observe rules and principles in a democratic system.
They also need to exercise their sworn and mandated duties with prudence. As Garofalo and Geuras
(2009, p. 70) argue: Public servants are moral actors whose discretion and decisions demand the
application of moral judgment in policy and management, rather than simple obedience to hierarchical
directives. While this does not exclude the need for laws, codes, and sanctions, these legalisms are not
surrogates for genuine moral leadership. However, if the second stage (that is, whistle-blowing) is to be
resorted to, it should not be done prematurely (as in Dr Stockmans case) and the civil servant must
seriously think about the consequences of his decision by balancing carefully his personal (and family)
interests and public common good.
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