The public administration affects consistently the development of the society and policies that influence political, economic and social life. Today, the public policy raises a number of problems, which affect the entire society because public policy influences the development of the entire society. Therefore, decisions taken by policy-makers affect the entire society. In such a situation, the public policy is crucial for the society because decisions taken by public officials can change the development of economic, political and social life of the nation as well as local communities. However, in democratic countries, public officials are supposed to serve interests of the public above all. To keep public officials within this framework of the public service, democratic societies have introduced the system of election of public officials through which the public can control the officials. If they fail to meet interests of the public, they will not be elected next time. This principle is a strong motivator for public officials to serve interests of communities. However, there are also non-elected officials that are nominated by government agencies or statesmen that raises the problem of serving public interests by non-elected officials. To put it more precisely, the problem is that non-elected officials may slip toward serving interests of those groups or individuals, who appointed them, instead of serving interests of the public. In the past, this problem was challenging. However, today, the situation has started to improve since the overall progress of democracy has opened larger opportunities for the public engagement in the planning and implementation of public policies. In such a way, today, public administration focuses on the wider involvement of the public in the planning process to conduct the public policies, which serve public interests above all that is the characteristic of a truly democratic society.
Historically, public officials both elected and non-elected performed their functions presumably to serve public interests. However, the problem arose because non-elected public officials often served interests to those individuals or groups, who appointed them to the public office. In such a context, the problem of the widening gap between community interests and interests of the group represented by the nominated by the non-elected officials.
In such a situation, the problem of the widening gap between interests of non-elected officials and interests of the community became one of the major challenges to the development of the public administration. Obviously, the ongoing ignorance of community’s needs and interests of the community by non-elected officials would lead to a dead-end because public offices, both elected and non-elected are supposed to serve needs and interests of the community but not interests of certain groups, who appoint officials.
The development of democracy increased the involvement of the public in the public administration and management of public offices. Steadily, the public has grown more and more concerned with policies conducted by public officials. In such a way, the public insisted on the development of the larger involvement of citizens into the political life and management of public offices through the wider involvement of the public in the planning process.
The widening gap between non-elected public officials and the public raised the question whether such public officials are worth serving the public and holding the public office. However, it was obvious that the nominated public officials that are not elected by the public cannot be eliminated from the existing public administration system because the public just cannot elect absolutely all officials including those performing routine tasks, especially if such public non-elected officials are under the full control of elected ones.
At the same time, the public required enhancing the control over non-elected officials to make them serving interests of the public. In such a situation, the new trend to the wider involvement of the public into the development of public policies has emerged. In fact, this trend was the result of the progress of democracy which stimulated the wider involvement of the public in the policy development and decision-making process. Therefore, the democracy stimulated the closer interaction between public officials and the public.
Public control over elected and non-elected offices
Democratic societies maintain the control over policy-makers, who are supposed to represent interest of the society but in the course of the implementation of public policies a bunch of problems may arise that affect the entire society, among which it is possible to single out the following:
Organizing policy work in government (Pal, 2005, 3)
Developing a public conversation about policy (Pal, 2005, 3)
Liberty and equality (Heineman, et al. 1997, 67)
Politics and interest groups (Heineman, et al. 1997, 73)
The politics of difference (Pal, 2005, 63)
Risk assessment in public policies (Pal, 2005, 339)
Crisis management in public policy (Pal, 2005, 365)
Ethics and public policy (Heineman, et al. 1997, 86)
Ideology and public policy (Heineman, et al. 1997, 36)
Transition from old governance to a new one (Pal, 2005, 119).
The problem of organizing policy work in government (Pal, 2005, 3) can manifest itself at virtually any level. In such a situation, elected officials normally attempt to organize their work in such a way that their performance was effective and matched interests of the public. However, non-elected officials often focus on their routine functions, regardless of interests of the public. Moreover, often both elected and non-elected officials just lack organizational skills and cannot organize their work efficiently (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2008). As a result, the performance of public offices deteriorated and the public administration becomes ineffective.
Another problem is the development of a public conversation about policy (Pal, 2005, 3). What is meant here is the fact that today public officials, on the one hand, and the public, on the other, are eager to interact with each other. On the one hand, the public wants to participate in the public policies development to determine what policies should be conducted and to meet the public interests. On the other hand, policy makers want to engage the public into the development of public policies to make their work more effective and, therefore, to increase their public support. To meet these goals, public officials develop the communication with community members. Through such a dialogue, they attempt to coordinated public policies and come to agreement. However, the problem is that such communication is often under-developed or ignored by public officials, especially non-elected ones.
The problem of liberty and equality is one of the main problems of the contemporary public administration and public policies (Heineman, et al. 1997, 67). Public policies may affect civil rights and liberties. For instance, local authorities can introduce restrictions for the traffic in the local community or, on the contrary, they may ignore requirements of the public to limit the traffic in the local community. In such a situation, the sovereignty of people, who comprise the local community, is questioned. Hence, their basic civil rights and liberties may be under a threat (Nalbandian, et al., 2013). At the same time, the gap between the public and public officials raises the problem of the inequality between citizens. Obviously, the gap between the public and officials put the latter in the advantageous position because they can conduct policies, which serve interests of particular groups but interests of the public at large or local community, if they work within the local community.
In this regard, politics and interest groups become another problem of the contemporary public administration (Heineman, et al. 1997, 73). In fact, public policies should meet interests of the public that means that they should meet the interests of the majority. For instance, if public policies are conducted by officials at the local level, they should be beneficial for local communities. However, they may not be harmful for local communities. Otherwise, they contradict to the main principle of the democratic society, the principle of respecting interests, rights and needs of the public. Instead, public officials can slip toward serving interests of small groups that hold political or economic control over the society, for instance. Such risks are particularly high in relation to public non-elected officials. As a result, public officials may slip to serving interests of small interest groups only, while interest of local communities or the public remain ignored.
The politics of difference is another challenge to the public administration today (Pal, 2005, 63). Public policies should take into consideration the diversity of local communities because the contemporary society and local communities tend to multiculturalism, when representatives of different ethnic, racial and, therefore, cultural groups live together and interact with each other. In such a situation, officials representing the mainstream cultural group, for instance, can be unaware of specific needs of minorities. As a result, while developing public policies, they may ignore differences that existing within their communities. Thus, interests of minorities may be neglected that leads to the confrontation between representatives of different groups within the community.
In such a situation, the adequate risk assessment in public policies becomes particularly important (Pal, 2005, 339). Public officials should assess risks accurately. Otherwise, they will be unable to conduct policies that avoid risks and conflicts with the public or within communities (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2008). In this regard, the engagement of the public in the risk assessment and elaboration of public policies turns out to be particularly important because, through communication and interaction with the public, public officials can understand better needs of the public and assess possible risks that may emerge in the course of the implementation of public policies.
Moreover, today, public officials should come prepared to perform the crisis management in public policies effectively (Pal, 2005, 365). The crisis management implies that public officials should be able to tackle conflicts with the public effectively. In this regard, the democratic society offers a possibility for the open dialogue between officials and the public. The public opinion plays an important part in the social life and officials cannot ignore the public opinion. On the contrary, they should work within the framework defined by the public opinion that means that they cannot conduct policies that evoke the strong opposition from the public and cause the emergence of the negative public opinion. Such policies should be eliminated and the crisis management conducted by public officials is supposed to tackle such problems.
In this regard ethical issues become particularly important for public policies conducted by the officials. (Heineman, et al. 1997, 86). Public policies should be ethically correct but officials cannot always conduct ethical policies without the interaction with the public because what the officials believe to be ethical and right, the public may perceive as being unethical and wrong.
At the same time, it is worth mentioning the fact that historically ideology and public policy (Heineman, et al. 1997, 36). The democratic society promoted the idea of respect of human rights and liberties but today these ideas are overshadowed by the emerging consumerism and respective ideology which determines public policies. As a result, public policies turn out to be profit-oriented rather than community-oriented that increases the urgent need of the public involvement in the public administration and development of public policies (Kaliski, 2001). For instance, elected as well as non-elected officials often focus on public policies that can stimulate business activities in local communities. However, they ignore the fact that the emerging of business activities does not necessarily mean the improvement of the quality of life of the local community. For instance, officials can support the construction of a new plant in the local community rather than opening of a new public school. Obviously, such policies are wrong and it is only through the public engagement such policies can be changed.
In such a way, today, the public administration faces the problem of the transition from old governance to a new one (Pal, 2005, 119). What is meant here is the fact that the old governance involved the distinct division of roles between officials and the public. The public granted the officials with the authority, while the officials conducted policies to serve interests of the public or, at least, tried to. However, today, the new public governance means the engagement of the public into the development and implementation of public policies to make sure that public policies do meet needs and interests of the public. In this regard, the public may be involved in the planning process to plan public policies, while officials work on the execution of the plan. In such a way, the involvement of the public in the development and implementation of public policies is one of the modern trends and the distinct feature of the democratic society.
All these problems are very important since they determine the overall effectiveness of public policies. If the government and policy-makers fail to tackle those problems successfully, the public policy is likely to fail, while the society is likely to reject such a government in a democratic country and elect new representatives that can tackle burning problems of the contemporary society.
Key problems of public policy
The politics of difference and the maintenance of liberty and equality in the contemporary society are among the most burning problems that affect the contemporary society and are determinant for the contemporary public policy. To put it more precisely, each of these problems affects the entire society and, if these problems remain unresolved, they are likely to aggravate in the future. The politics of difference implies the development of effective policies in the multicultural society, where people with different cultural and ethnic background live together. At the same time, the concept of the politics of difference is broader in its essence because the contemporary is diverse, while the primary concern of the public policy should be the respect of difference of all citizens. In this regard, policies aiming at the elimination of discrimination are the major tool of the effective implementation of the policy of difference because they protect individuals from discrimination and any sort of oppression because of their difference. In fact, this problem is very important today because the contemporary society becomes more and more diverse.
Another problem, the problem of liberty and equality, is also very important because today the society confronts the problem of the widening gap between the reach and the poor, while the concept of equality is closely intertwined with liberty. If there is no equality within the society, there can hardly be liberty because those, who are in a superior position, will always oppress those, who are in the inferior position. As a result, the widening gap between the rich and the poor raises the problem of the growing inequality and the oppression of basic liberties and human rights of the poor, who are often deprived of an opportunity to receive health care services and education, for instance.
Causes of problems of the public policy administration
Both problems mentioned above have specific and diverse causes. The problem of difference basically emerges because of the growing diversity of the contemporary society. The mass immigration became one of the major causes of the growing diversity since new immigrants settled in their communities and often they faced and still face problems with the integration in the mainstream culture and society. Another cause of the problem of the development of the effective policy of difference is the emergence of civil rights movements, including the feminist movement, contributed to the growing diversity of the contemporary society, where different groups have specific norms and standards and they want their lifestyle and ethical norms to be respected and tolerated by the rest of the society.
As for the problem of the liberty and equality, the major cause of the emergence of this problem was the pauperization of a large part of the population because of the economic recession and stumbling of the economy recovery. As a result, the middle class in the US, for instance, has decreased its share in the total population, while the number of the poor increased. As a result, the poor has turned to be in a disadvantageous position being deprived of basic rights and liberties, for instance, the right to education or health care services. Another cause of this problem is the enhancement of the law enforcement agencies’ power that threaten to basic human rights and liberties, including the right to privacy.
Course of action and engagement of citizens into the co-planning of public policies
The problem of the politics of difference may have two possible courses of actions. First, the government can maintain the status quo, when minorities live in their own communities but stay aside of the development of the rest of the society and respective social changes (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2008). Alternatively, the government should offer programs of the integration of minorities into the mainstream culture through the development of tolerance within the society. In this regard, educational programs can help to teach people to be tolerant in relation to each other, in spite of existing differences.
As for the problem of liberty and equality, the government should tackle economic problems above all to close the gap between the rich and the poor. In such a way, the cause of the problem may be eliminated. Alternatively, the government should grant the oppressed population, the poor, with the government support in terms of health care services, education and other important issues.
In fact, the major problems of public policies that have been mentioned above can be resolved through the public engagement into the development and implementation of public policies. Such engagement of the public into the public administration will close the gap between officials and the public. As a result, they will be able to interact and coordinate their actions (Denhardt & Denhardt, 2008). Thus, they will develop and implement effective public policies that serve interests of the public and all groups within local communities rather than to the interests of the few, as is often the case today.
Further prospects of the development of the public administration and public policies
In the future, the public engagement in the planning is likely to increase. Moreover, the public is likely to get involved into the implementation of public policies and their management. The involvement of the public in the public administration and policies conducted by both elected and non-elected officials can occur through the engagement of the public in the planning process and this trend can be traced today. At the same time, the public can interact closely with public officials and participate in the implementation of public policies, for instance, through performing volunteer jobs in local communities. For example, if the local community and public officials decide to construct a playground for local children, they can cooperate as the public officials can help to find the public place for the construction of the playground, while local community members will raise funds and construct the playground respectively to their needs.
Furthermore, both elected and non-elected officials are likely to be under a stricter public control due to the wider implementation of new technologies that allow monitoring activities of public officials. For instance, contemporary technologies allow tracking how effectively public officials use funds and what effects their decision have on the community development. In such a way, in the future, the public is likely to have an opportunity to monitor the performance of public officials and influence their policies and decisions.
Thus, today, public policies confront numerous problems but they can be resolved through the close interaction between the government and communities. In actuality, public policies face the problem of widening gap between officials and the public. In this regard, the solution of this problem of the public administration can be found in the development of the closer interaction between the public and officials. The public may be involved in the planning as well as the implementation of public policies that will close the gap between the public and officials.
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Nalbandian, J. et al. (2013). Contemporary Challenges in Local Government: Evolving Roles and Responsibilities, Structures, and Processes,” Public Administration Review, 73(4), 567–574.
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