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  • While the rule of law is widely considered to be essential to democracy, the role of law in public administration is subject to some controversy.
  • There are two general camps in this debate: one argues that law is —a hindrance to managerial reforms all and —an unwarranted constraint on the effective implementation of public programs, and another views law as the —champion of democratic values in the administrative process and as —being neglected as the legitimate guiding force in management.
  • In part, this controversy and tension is related to the distinction between law as a formal framework and law as a set of values used to shape administrative discretion. THE VALUES FRAME
  • Law, the Constitution, legislation, court decisions, rulemaking, and other aspects of administrative law provides the formal rules of the game, creating the legal zone of discretion that administrators work within.
  • As this legal framework expands, it generally minimizes discretion in the name of explicitly guiding behaviour.
  • Law as a formal framework is intended to prevent the corruption, loss of rights, personalized authority, and other abuses that arise in insufficiently developed legal regimes.
  • The principles of this approach are to be constitutionally competent, avoid illegal behaviour in the exercise
    of authority, be broadly aware of relevant laws, and interpret law in a reasonable fashion.
  • The view of law as a formal framework is widely accepted: the problems and controversies surrounding the role of law in public administration emerge when law is viewed as a set of values that are to be used in guiding administrative discretion. THE VALUES FRAME
  • In terms of discretion, although law often sets the parameters within which administrative action takes place, legal compliance tends to be the paramount concern for public administrators, rather than discovering and/or promoting higher order legal (and other) values.
  • The content values of the legal frame might be generally categorized as regime values, those values that are manifest in the Constitution.
  • Although it would be difficult to supply an exhaustive list, scholars have identified three related values that are central in the legal frame of public administration: individual substantive rights, procedural due process, and equity.
  • To uphold these values, legal rationality is employed. To make the necessary determinations in legal reasoning, one looks to both statute (i.e., laws passed by various legislatures to address problems), as well as common law (i.e., case law or precedent developed over time).
  • Moreover, these steps require both inductive and deductive reasoning: one begins with the general rule associated with the claim, moves to the general rule associated with the sub-issues, then sets up specific exceptions to the rule and any cases that need to be distinguished, and finally relates the more specific cases to the general standard.
  • The methodology by which legal rationality is applied in decision-making maximizes the use of adversary procedure for example through independent and impartial adjudication by administrative law judges, hearing examiners, and regulatory commissions.
  • Other methodologies employed in the legal frame include rulemaking, investigating, prosecuting, negotiating, settling, and informally acting.
  • In all of these methodologies, the conduct of the public official under law is governed by the concept of objective reasonableness, wherein the conduct of a public official is deemed objectively reasonable and, hence, deserving of the defense of qualified immunity [from individual tort liability], if and when the conduct does not violate sufficiently clearly established statutory or constitutional rights that a reasonable person in that position would have known.


  • The organizational public values frame is perhaps the best known and most easily articulated of the four frames presented here. This is not surprising since it is the most closely related to bureaucratic ethos, and deeply entrenched in the history of the field.
  • The core content value of the organizational frame is administrative efficiency; the other content values in the frame—specialization and expertise, authority of positions, merit, formalization, organizational loyalty, and political neutrality serve to reinforce administrative efficiency.


  • Market values and organizational values are generally conflated under the rubric of bureaucratic ethos. However, while these two public values frames are often used in concert, they are distinct.
  • Certainly, the roots of market values in public administration are entangled with the roots of the organizational frame, both of which can be traced to the field’s search for a —practical science of administration all based on —general business principles.
  • The —essence all of these two frames —lies in the belief that there is something called ‘management’ which is a generic, purely instrumental activity, embodying a set of principles that can be applied to both the public and private sectors.
  • The search for generic management principles that transcend private and public spheres marked not only the classical period of public administration (1880s-1940), but also the birth in the 1970s of ‘managerialism’.
  • While managerialism had been an element of what may be regarded as American administrative ideology for nearly a century something new – entered the picture in both the United States and in Europe during the 1970s. Economic crises, fiscal scarcity, demographic change, immigration, and the resultant concerns with the financial appetite of the welfare state gave impetus to public policies emphasizing government retrenchment and efficiency. THE VALUES FRAME
  • Thus, this period marked the beginning of the preoccupation, and in some cases the obsession, on the part of policy makers with reduced-cost public service delivery.
  • It also marked the ascendance of the market values frame in the field. The primary content values in this frame are cost-savings and cost-efficiency; other content values include productivity, flexibility, innovation, and customer Service.
  • Such market values were reinforced during the 1980s by New Right politicians and public choice theorists who contributed to the perception of failure in public bureaucratic institutions and the delegitimation of the public service, as well as the growing acceptance of the claim that private business management was superior to public administration and that bureaucracies were inefficient and responsible for the economic problems of countries.
  • Reasoning in the market values frame guided by instrumental rationality, which focuses on the most efficient or cost-effective means to achieve a specific end without reflection on the value of that end.
  • Instrumental rationality is the prime mode of reasoning in economic liberalism, which favors markets that are free from government intervention, although it recognizes that the state has a legitimate role in the provision of public goods. THE VALUES FRAME
  • Thus, economic individualism, which promotes the idea that ‘economic man,’ using the virtues of self-reliance and independence, coupled with the right to pursue property and material gain in the free market, will contribute to the common good, is a strong force behind instrumental rationality in the market values frame.
  • Consequently, politicians pushed for neo-Taylorist reforms that would make bureaucracies more business-like. A second wave of reforms in the 1990s coupled these efficiency and administrative control concerns with —a complex mixture of public choice theory, agency theory, and transaction-cost economics.
  • The mantra behind these reforms was that —the old top-down bureaucratic monopolies delivering standardized services are not effective. To be effective today, an organization must be lean, fast on its feet, responsive to its customers, capable of adjusting to constant change, able to improve productivity continually.
  • In other words it needs to be entrepreneurial rather than bureaucratic. Thus, these reforms emphasized the market and the role of the public administrator as a policy entrepreneur. Terms such as flexibility, deregulation, privatization, and reengineering became the lingua franca of the day.
  • The methodology of the market values frame can be generally summed up in the phrase running government like a business. THE VALUES FRAME
  • The principle themes of running government like a business, as espoused in the New Public Management, include: a shift away from an emphasis on policy toward an emphasis on measurable performance; a shift away from reliance on traditional bureaucracies toward loosely coupled, quasi-autonomous units and competitively tendered services; a shift away from an emphasis on development and investment toward cost-cutting; allowing public management greater freedom to manage all according to private sector corporate practice; and a shift away from classic command-and-control regulation toward self-regulation.
  • Thus, although this frame does not forsake values in the organizational frame such as administrative efficiency, it does —represent a radical shift in focus regarding how these important values are achieved. It insists that public managers —are (and should be) self-interested, opportunistic innovators and risk-takers who exploit information and situations to produce radical change that public managers should assume an entrepreneurial leadership role.
  • Various market-oriented tools, ideas, and concepts designed to achieve the content values in the market frame can be readily found in both the literature and practice of public administration.
  • For example, zero-based budgeting, management by objectives, program planning budgeting systems, reinventing government, and the general methods of the new public management are all efficiency-based reform movements, rooted in neoclassical economics, and designed make bureaucracy more streamlined, entrepreneurial, competitive, customer-driven, enterprising, and results oriented.
  • The emphasis on a constellation of cost-cutting and production management concepts is also seen in methods such as privatization, downsizing, rightsizing, entrepreneurism, reinvention, enterprise operations, quality management, and customer service, along with competition, contracting out, franchises, voucher programs, and commercialization.
  • In short, the methodology of the market values frame seeks to allow —managers to manage according to cost-benefit economic rationality. THE VALUES FRAME 


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