When one looks at government today, it is very easy to see the role that politics play. From the shift of calling government officials public servants to the much more common and accurate term of politician, we can see the evolution of the public’s view of the practice over the years. However, looking back to before this shift occurred, we can see the that this idea was discussed and it was in Paul Appleby’s article, “Government is Different. Written in 1945, this article follows the end of World War II and preceded what was to become known as the Postwar Era.
The article was also written during the The New Deal to Mid-Century period of Public Administration, which took place from the 1930’s-1950’s. Paul Appleby was interested in the proper qualifications one needed in order to be a competent public servant. He also described the differences in one would have in selecting an executive for a non-government business as opposed to picking a candidate to hold a government position.
He also made the distinction between high level government positions and low level positions, stating that the qualifications for both were varied greatly. He started the article off with a general analogy that greatly clarifies the arguments he intended to make. The main point of this analogy was that when selecting a judge, one may not just necessarily select the most prominent lawyer, on the contrary, the qualifications that define a great lawyer do not necessarily describe a great judge. This is the basis to the arguments made throughout the remainder of the article.Appleby stated that when choosing government personnel the very basic qualification would be that the candidate for said positions actually have a deep rooted interest in gaining one of these positions. He says that there may be times one it is more desirable for people to hold a government position and that during these times more people may come forward in order to gain these positions. During these times, we must look past those that only show interest during the popular times and find those that have had an interest in government through the more fortunate times and the less fortunate ones as well.
The reason being that those who are interested solely for factors such as “patriotism, desire for adventure, or other considerations…” will be unqualified for government work. He feels that those that don’t normally and consistently have an interest in government will not be good candidates and holds that this is especially true for upper-bracket positions. However, there are also positions in government that would require similar qualifications as those outside of government and therefore candidates for these positions could be reviewed interchangeably.This is found to be true in lower-bracket jobs such as “charwomen, elevator operators, messengers, clerks, and typists. ” Even in these positions, Appleby still feels that those in these positions that prefer to work in the public sector would be the better fit for the position. Overall, the desire to be a public official is a key element in actually making a desirable public official. Another major qualification defined by the article is that anyone who wishes to be a public official should have the public interest in mind.
This is essential in not only carrying out the job competently but also in ensuring that you will be able to retain your position. In comparison with the private sector, a public sector job comes with a larger group of difficulties. The main example is the most obvious, the job is public. This means that every decision you make, every conversation, letter, email, or any other form of communication is subject to scrutiny by the media and the general public.
In the private sector all of these things are judged based on results with most issues of ethics and social aspects being ignored as long as the results are beneficial to the business.In government, even if the decision being made or the opinion being held is thought to be best, it is still subject to the scrutiny of those who believe it is either wrong in some way or could have been done differently. Also, in business, executives hire and fire who they please, within limits, without having to answer to the public or the media and the person being fired or hired has very little influence in the opinion of the company.
In government, official’s must be aware of the way in which they handle employees because ny wrong move can bring negative media attention to a job that hinges on positive public opinion. Therefore, a government official must be well-versed in the art of working with people and understanding how an individual will be affected by the decisions being made. Also, a business looks at government very differently than government looks at business.
For a business, the main goal is profit and growth, and it will conduct itself with those two goals in mind. For government, the goal is to keep the interest of the public satisfied in order to function efficiently and continually.Appleby states that government exists because “there is a need to have special persons in society charged with the function of promoting and protecting the public interest. ” Business, bears in mind public interest but inevitably succumbs to the pressure of industrial interests which directly benefit or damage the business. Government has the undesirable job to not only consider what is necessary for itself but also with respect to all of its citizens.
Therefore government makes decisions based on the popular demands of the public while trying to take the most uniform and fair actions possible.Appleby concludes his statements by stating that government has at least three broad aspects that differentiate it from all other institutions and activities. These are “breadth of scope, impact, and consideration; public accountability; political character. ” As far as breadth of scope the national government can be compared to no business because its decisions must be applied to all Americans regardless of where they live whereas a business only needs to consider the affects in the geographical regions that it operates within.Also, no other institution is a publicly accountable, meaning that no decision that a single business makes is subject to the public scrutiny and debate that every government decision may be subject to.
The last being political character, Appleby states that although “other institutions, admittedly, are not free from politics, but government is politics. ” Because of this, every governmental executive lives and moves in the realm of public life and must be aware of this day in and day out. Also, in order to make a qualified government official one must have a general knowledge of all aspects of the job and not just their own pecialization. This article is of great importance to the understanding of Public Administration because it describes, with great detail, the job of a public servant not only as an official but more importantly as a politician. It teaches that in order to be an effective government executive, one must have a broad knowledge of many areas of government, economics, and the like without a need to specialize in any one section or study.
Today it is easy for us to view our government officials as politicians, but I believe our definition of what that entails has changed from the times when Appleby used the term.For Appleby, I believe a politician was one that wanted to serve his country, that wished to hold a position in government in order to carry out the interest of the general public. Today, we see politicians doing whatever they can to be re-elected and many times relying solely on party lines disregarding what may be the most fair and uniform decisions to be made. As students of Public Administration, I believe it is important to take into account the originally meanings of these terms as well as what they imply as to what will make a competent and qualified public official.