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Value conflict

Value Conflicts

A value conflict occurs when individuals or groups of people hold strong personal beliefs that are in disagreement within themselves or in disagreement with the institution’s/ organization’s values. These may include religious differences, cultural differences or differences in upbringing.

Values-based conflicts are particularly pervasive in public policy. Indeed, nearly all public (policy) controversies entail divergent beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust. Many policy decisions are essentially choices among competing values. Simply consider how:

  • Efforts to promote equal opportunity might result in conflicts among values such as efficiency, justice, equality, diversity, merit, and individual achievement;
  • Crime prevention policies might trigger competition among values such as liberty, safety, due process, equity, effectiveness, access, and justice; and
  • Domestic security policies might produce conflict among values such as knowledge generation, information sharing, confidentiality, privacy, civil liberties, individual rights, and safety.

Framework of Ethical Behaviour

The role of ethics in public life has many dimensions. At one end is the expression of high moral values and at the other, the specifics of action for which a public functionary can be held legally accountable. Any framework of ethical behaviour must include the following elements:

  • Codifying ethical norms and practices.
  • Disclosing personal interest to avoid conflict between public interest and personal gain.
  • Creating a mechanism for enforcing the relevant codes.
  • Providing norms for qualifying and disqualifying a public functionary from office.
  • Public Interest and Public Administration

The public interest refers to the “common well-being” or “general welfare”. The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself. Government has a universalistic character. It has to serve the common good without making any sort of distinction between man and man. The importance of a sense of public interest as a wider ethical commitment in public administration assumes significance in this context.