Amidst the raging debate as to whether public ethics are legitimate or not, there are well defined underlying principles which guide their operations and constitutionality. The source and type of ethical obligation to which the public administrator is expected to respond leads to what is termed as a map of ethical dilemma. These ethical dilemmas are posed by an obligation to the states’ constitution, law, family, self, religion, middle range collectivities, public interest, organization bureaucratic norms and professionalism.
The most crucial of the ethical dilemmas the public administrators face is their obligation to the constitution and law of the land no matter what they stipulate. In many occasions, what the constitutional laws require of the public administrators is against their conscience and private ethics. Since they are obliged by then law to behave or take an action is a particular way, the administrators are compelled to do that which the law required regardless of their consequences for the best interest of the state. This kind of an obligation puts the administrators in a dilemma as to whether they should enforce the law or yield to their conscience from time to time.
In most powerful states or nations of the world such as United States of America (USA) and United Kingdom (UK), the rule of the law and supremacy of the constitution infiltrate every aspect of public and private life and all citizens are required to adhere to the existing statutes. Additionally, the legislated policies and code of conduct that governs the administration of public offices offer a comprehensive guideline to all bearers. Such include decision making procedures particular on serious matter that requires close interpretation of the law. Suffice it to say, some of the guided decisions are in sharp conflict with the conscience of the public administrators which are deeply rooted in the higher laws and self-conscience.
Obligation to middle range collectivities, democracy, public interest or general welfare is yet another crucial factor that pose a serious ethical dilemma to the public administrators. As illustrated by Dwight Waldo in his article, The Relationship between Ethics and Public Administration, the rule of democracy that always champion for the popular behaviors and decisions that are acceptable to majority (middle range collectivities and public masses) rather than minority regardless of their outcomes. Many a times, decisions made in favor of the majority compromise the ethical values firmly held by the public administrators. The biggest question that lingers in their (public administrators) minds remains “Should we yield to the prevailing pressure of the majority or listen to the inner voice of our profession and self-conscience?”
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In agreement with the Waldo’s discussion, obligation to the constitution, law and constitution have proven to be number one factor that leads to the creation of ethnic dilemma in the Public administrations. For the fear of possible prosecution, the administrators are compelled to act, respond and make decisions in accordance with the law notwithstanding their true position, conscience, and higher laws. In general, the public ethics which are geared towards the common good of the public often violate private ethics which are deeply rooted in conscience and higher laws.