chapter  2
Ethics in Public Administration
Pages 23

Practitioners have tried to ignore the moral aspects of their jobs by invoking the ethic of neutrality, which holds that administrators “are to give effect to whatever principles are reflected in the orders and policies they are charged with implementing” (Thompson, 1985, p. 556). Classical understandings of bureaucratic structure and organization theory have provided little in the way of and ethical basis for administrative activity. Weber’s bureaucratic model was one source of the “ethic of neutrality.” Widely misunderstood as advocating a model behavior, Weberian bureaucracy became the archetype of an alienating organization. Individual morality had no role to play in the popular conception of a bureaucracy. The morality of policy decisions was a problem for the politicians, not the administrators. A chilling example of neutrality is Adolph Eichmann’s defense of the Nazi slaughter of the Jews: He was only following orders and thus was free of moral responsibility for the deaths. Despite numerous pleas in the literature of public administration to abandon the dichotomy between politics and administration, administrators still find shelter beneath the umbrella of neutrality. This approach has been reinforced by the organization theory developed in the last century, starting with Taylor’s scientific management.