Roles, Priority and Conflicts
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As Terry L. Cooper argued in the Chapter Four of his book, The Responsible Administrator: An Approach to Ethics for the Administrative Role, “responsibility is the key concept in developing an ethic for the administrative role.” He believes that responsibility is central to democratic accountability, to recognizing and dealing with the dealing with the conflicting obligations, of being a public servant.

He also noted that public administrators often find themselves caught between their objective responsibility and subjective responsibility (Federick Mosher), which makes their task more complex and stressful. The conflicts of administrative responsibility are manifested in three ways, including conflicts of authority, role conflicts, and conflicts of interest. It is worth to point out – first, in real life experience, many administrators would feel and believe themselves to be responsible for acting in ways that are odds with what the organizational hierarchy or the law holds them accountable for; second, in cases of role conflicts, the solution can barely be reached, because it is hard for us to review, clarify, and redefine our roles.

According to Cooper, all work for a government bears a dual obligation: they are responsible for serving the public and they are members of the public they are supposed to serve. So ethics is especially important for public officials, because they have multiple roles (and obligations that go with them) and they have discretion. Ethics is what guides them in “the responsible use of this discretion”. In the book, Cooper describes the public administrator as “a fiduciary professional citizen”, and it is important to recognize that first and foremost, administrators are citizens with special responsibilities. So thats why he encourages that the “loyalty to the people” should precede loyalties to any particular agency or government official, which, I perceive, is somehow an acquiesce for a public official to become one of the guerrilla government, stand up to the power of an unethical organization and superiors.

However, I think his argument on the effective strategy an administrator should adopt when facing a moral quandary is rather problematic. He thinks it is important to “assess the seriousness of a situation, consider the full range of values at stake, and then act in proportion to these circumstances”, which is a time-consuming process and could be influenced by personal judgment. In Models of Man, Herbert Simon sets forth his concept of “Administrative man” which contrasted to the “Economic man”, as the model of human condition. He holds that human beings cant always be rational and narrowly self-interested actors who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. Because in reality, we are limited by our unconscious skills, habits, our values and conceptions

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Terry L. Cooper And Responsible Administrator. (April 17, 2021). Retrieved from