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What is Public Administration Today Response Paper

Pages:8 (2502 words)



Topic:Public Administration

Document Type:Response Paper


Public Administration

How Public Administrative Discretion Works


The main difference between public and private administration is that in the former the administration both administers to the public and is accountable to the public; in the latter, the administration is accountable only to stakeholders, which may or may not include members of the community/public. Other differences include the fact that in private administration, the idea is that the administration is overseeing some business organization that focuses on a goal related to its mission, its business model. Public administration, on the other hand, refers to a political process wherein official administrators are elected or appointed to do a job for the good of the public. They typically control or use public funds; must give a public accounting of how funds are used, and must to all intents and purposes fulfill a mandate given them by the public—though, of course, it is up to the public to hold them accountable and if the public does not do so the administration may very well do as it pleases without suffering any political repercussions (Savoie, 2006). The private administration is a non-governmental operation; the public administration is a government operation. Typically the public administration is organized bureaucratically while the private administration is organized hierarchically or with an egalitarian principle.

The advantages of the public administration are that its orientation is towards the welfare of the public whereas the private administration is oriented towards the welfare of the corporation (Reyes & Pounder, 1993). The public administration seeks to please and better the community through its initiatives. The private administration seeks to please the community through some product or service by the provision of which the company can profit.

The advantage of the private administration is that decision-making is more streamlined and typically more effective so long as the decision-maker is well-versed in the art of leading. In the public administration, decision-making is often by committee and is pluralistic, which can make it difficult for any action to be taken if there is disagreement among members. Debates can be contentious and there can be a great deal of stalling and what appears to be inaction.

The disadvantages of public administration are that it requires taxation in order to have any revenue to fund its projects. That means the people must pay for its existence and they must pay to employ those who serve in the administration, whether they like it or not. This can lead to frustration and anger over the fact that the public is forced to pay for something it does not believe in and does not want to continue to see operating. That sentiment in turn can lead to a drop-off in taxes as people find ways to skirt paying them, which can dry up the revenue streams and cause the public administration to become even less impactful.

The disadvantage of private administration is that it typically lacks transparency and only reveals to the public what it is required by law to reveal—which can be very little in many cases. Unless the private company goes public, for example, it is not bound to release quarterly statements or hold conference calls with investors. So an early investor in a company like WeWork may be thinking his investment will pay off handsomely only to find out when the company is about to go public that its internals are a complete disaster. So the lack of transparency is a major issue with respect to private administration.


The significance of administrative federalism from the federal, state and local perspectives ranges from setting quality standards to deciding which projects to put in motion. At every level, administrative federalism means something a little different. For example, at the federal level, it means having the power to set the scope of a project or policy (Rubinstein, 2015). At the state or local level, it means having the power to decide what projects or polices to pursue and what not to pursue based on what the will of one’s constituents appears to be (Schwager, 1999). Thus, for each of the three perspectives, administrative federalism carries a unique significance.

At the federal level, administrative federalism is unique because it provides the federal government with the ability to “make front-line decisions about the scope of federal policy and whether such policy should preempt state law” (Rubenstein, 2015, p. 171). In other words, the federal government gets to lay out a plan or argument for why or whether its will can trump the will or authority of the state. It can look at Constitutional law for guidance but in the end the fact remains that it is in the power of the federal government to make decisions that will ultimately impact states and local jurisdictions in meaningful ways. One of these ways is through HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD can impact states and local jurisdictions in terms of what kind of housing development projects are implemented and where, if the latter wish to obtain federal dollars for funding. The same goes with public education. The Department of Education can set standards that public schools must meet if they wish to received federal aid to keep their operations running, to keep teachers paid, and so on. In this manner, the federal government can hold states and local jurisdictions hostage, to some degree, to the ideas that the federal government wants to promote.

Administrative federalism at the state level is significant because it gives the state a role in the decision-making process. The state has certain rights that are granted it by the Constitution and so it is not merely an active actor in the advancement of its own causes. In fact, the state can pass laws that contradict those of the federal government and a perfect example of this is the passing of marijuana legalization bills in several states in recent years. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic according to the federal government and therefore is viewed as illegal—but the states have rebuffed the federal government’s view and adopted a position that is contradictory and more reflective of the will of the people in their individual states.

This same idea is there for local jurisdictions. They may have the opportunity to avail themselves of federal dollars if they adhere to certain standards put in place by the federal government, but they are under no obligation to accept that money—and if they feel the standards are not ones with which the people of that jurisdiction want to comply then they do not have to enact the policy or program as it has been recommended by the federal government. Therefore, a local jurisdiction may reject the idea of implementing Common Core standards in its schools and rely upon local tax dollars for funding of the school if it thinks it can afford to do so and it is the will of the local community that it do so. The local jurisdiction thus has a lot of power to be its own authority—so long as it chooses to reject the carrot that the federal government offers it through the promise of exorbitant funds for operations. Thus, each of the three will view administrative federalism differently.


Reengineering is, simply put, the process of looking at how an organization conducts its business at every level and finding ways to improve the process at each level.…

Sample Source(s) Used


Cann, S. (2007). The Administrative State, the Exercise of Discretion, and the Constitution. Public Administration Review, 67(4), 780–782.

EPA. (2015). Administrative discretion. Retrieved from

Reyes, P., & Pounder, D. G. (1993). Organizational orientation in public and private elementary schools. The Journal of Educational Research, 87(2), 86-93.

Reyes, D. R. (1998). Public sector reengineering: Practice, problems and prospects.

Rinaldi, M., Montanari, R., & Bottani, E. (2015). Improving the efficiency of public

administrations through business process reengineering and simulation: A case study. Business Process Management Journal, 21(2), 419-462.

Rubenstein, D. S. (2015). Administrative Federalism as Separation of Powers. Wash. & Lee L. Rev., 72, 171.

Savoie, D. J. (2006). What is wrong with the new public management?. In Comparative Public Administration (pp. 593-602). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

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