Essay about Democracy
Democracy is a system of government that is ruled by the people. It is a system that has a fair and just election system, offers protection of unalienable rights, and establishes laws that are applicable to all citizens. Power must flow from the people to those that lead the government. Democracy allows each person to be heard but requires each person to listen and be respectful. Democracy allows individuals to make their own decisions but offers consequences depending on those choices. Democracy allows for the citizens to not only elect public officials but to hold them accountable for their actions.
As public administrators, how do we ensure that Bureaucracy does not overtake Democracy? “The tension between Democracy and Bureaucracy has bedeviled public administration” (Burke, 1989, p. 180). How do we ensure that public services are being provided by public administrators in the most efficient manner? “Public service in a Democracy is a paradox that has been and continues to be a central issue in public administration” (Cox, 2007, p. 3). Can public administrators exercise bureaucratic discretion? How do we hold public administrators accountable? How can citizens contribute and protect Democracy?
To ensure that Bureaucracy does not overtake Democracy, the approach has to be multi-faceted. The first and major part of ensuring Bureaucracy does not overtake Democracy is to ensure that we hire competent and responsible public administrators. Public administrators must be trustworthy, responsible, and held to a high standard. However, we must also understand that our public administrators are human and fallible. Public administrators should be neutrally implementing the popular will of the people. Public administrators should not merely be delivering customer service; they should be delivering Democracy.
Public administrators have an active role in protecting Democracy. “It was the Founders’ intent that all public servants should view the processes of government as a moral endeavor; theirs is not just to administer, but to assist in bringing the ideals of democracy into existence [in the everyday lives of citizens]….Therefore, the primary duty of public servants is to act as guardians and guarantors of the regime values for the American public” (Frederickson & Hart, 1997, pp. 205-206). Furthermore, if public administrators operate within the rule of law, we can ensure “…a governing system in which the highest authority is a body of law that applies equally to all (as opposed to the rule of men, in which the personal whim of those in power can decide any issue)” (Shafritz & Russell, 2005, p. 211).
Public administrators should be educated and knowledgeable, so their respective organizations can be managed appropriately. Public administrators are tasked with reconciling problems as they arise. Ensuring they are educated and knowledgeable, will help them resolve problems more efficiently. Public administrators are the “primary contact between the citizen and public organizations. When this contact is effectively carried out…public administration contributes to ongoing renewal and reaffirmation of the social contract” (Frederickson & Chandler, 1997, p. 210).
Once we hire public administrators that are competent and knowledgeable, we must ensure that public services are provided efficiently and effectively. In order to do so, we need checks and balances. Democracy ensures that the people are receiving proper and fair treatment when utilizing government services. In a Democracy all citizens are equal, therefore, Federal Law prohibits discrimination against citizens on the following basis: sexual orientation, religion, race, sex, physical disability, age, and national origin (Civil Rights Act of 1964). Our Democracy would be compromised if we allowed public administrators to discriminate against the same people they serve.
Additionally, citizens have to take an active approach and participate in everyday public life. Citizens must stay informed about political issues, social issues, and how their representatives are using their powers. Citizens need to question their government while respecting its authority. In order to avoid anarchy and promote Democracy, citizens should follow the law. Lastly, citizens must know who they are voting for and why they are voting for that particular person.
The final way to ensure that Democracy is not overtaken by Bureaucracy is to allow public administrators to exercise discretion. Implementation will either require administrative or bureaucratic discretion. “Administrative discretion is to be sure a fundamental concept within public administration and the theory of representative bureaucracy. It lies at its very core, especially in terms of active representation on the part of public servants. Scholars tend to agree that in order for administrators to engage in representation, they need to have access to administrative discretion first before they can decide to creatively make use of it” (Denhardt & DeLeon, 1995; Meier & Bohte, 2001; Meier & Stewart, 1991; Sowa & Selden, 2003).
While our system of Democracy may not be perfect, it has withstood the test of time. Hiring competent and trustworthy public administrators, providing checks and balances on the public services being offered, and allowing our public administrators to exercise discretion will help protect Democracy. Active participation by citizens will help strengthen Democracy. We did not achieve everything by receiving everything. Democracy requires understanding and compromise.