Public Administration Ethics for the 21st Century
by J. Michael Martinez
August 2009, 194pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-35880-7
$75, £58, 66€, A103
Paperback: 978-0-313-35882-1
$25, £20, 22€, A35
eBook Available: 978-0-313-35881-4
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The engineering, medical, and legal professions in the United States each have explicit codes of ethics in which all practitioners must be educated and by which they must abide. Yet of all fields, public administration remains without such a uniform code—despite the manifestly ethical nature of the way civil servants and non-profit administrators are asked to work and make decisions.

This volume establishes a foundation for a uniform code of professional ethics for public administrators in the United States.

Public Administration Ethics for the 21st Century lays the ethical foundations for a uniform professional code of ethics for public administrators, civil servants, and non-profit administrators in the US. Martinez synthesizes five disparate schools of ethical thought as to how public administrators can come to know the good and behave in ways that advance the values of citizenship, equity, and public interest within their respective organizations. Using case studies, he teaches American administrators how to combine the approaches of all five schools to evaluate and resolve complex ethical dilemmas within the constraints of the U.S. democratic values set.

Martinez enunciates the common ethical principles that guide public administrators in their practice within the specific ethical parameters and organizational cultures of a myriad entities at the federal, state, and local levels of government in the United States, as well as in non-profit organizations. Along the way, Martinez addresses a number of crucial issues, including personal gain, conflict of interest, transparency, democratic impartiality, hiring, hierarchical discipline, media relations, partisan pressure, appointments by elected officials, and whistle-blowing. The striking, high-profile case studies—Nathan Bedford Forrest, Adolph Eichmann, Lieutenant William Calley, and Mary Ann Wright—illustrate ethical dilemmas where, for better or worse, the individual was at odds with the organization.


  • Four cases of ethical and unethical decision making in context—Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Calley, Adolf Eichmann, and Mary Anne Wright—who resigned in protest over the 2003 invasion of Iraq
  • Six figures depicting the process of ethical decision making within a public organization
  • An extensive bibliography listing of the major sources on administrative ethics in print and online
  • An index of key thinkers and theories involving administrative ethics
J. Michael Martinez is a corporate attorney in Monroe, GA, and teaches political science as a part-time faculty member at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA. He is the author of numerous articles and books on southern history, American government, and public administration.


"For academics and public administration practitioners, Martinez, a corporate attorney who teaches political science at Kennesaw State U., outlines a theory of ethics that does not choose one specific approach to problems but rather focuses on the process of decision making. He describes the history and development of administrative ethics, the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to administrative ethics, modern ethical theory, including descriptive and normative ethics, the role of the administrator and issues of individual vs. organizational values, and a model of ethics for public administrators that emphasizes a process approach, in which individuals decide on the appropriate content of ethical standards. This final chapter outlines the stages of the process leading to an ethical decision." —Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2009

"Martinez has done a masterful job of explicating five principal approaches to administrative ethics. His graceful prose treats disparate approaches succinctly, clearly and accurately. My own approach—which favors regime values—is especially well done."—William D. Richardson
Odeen-Swanson Professor of Political Science Chair, Department of Political Science & Director, W. O. Farber Center The University of South Dakota

"Administrative ethics can be a challenging topic even for those who are well-versed in the literature. Mike Martinez writes in clear prose with minimal academic jargon. His book should prove useful for readers who are seeking a clear, short, easy-to-understand explication of the debates among administrative ethicists and the various schools of thought."—Jeffrey L. Brudney, Ph.D.
Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government Policy and
Professor of Public Affairs
Department of Public Administration
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University

"J. Michael Martinez' book provides a remarkable framing of contemporary ethical issues in politics and public administration, uniting classical tenets of ethics with modern ethical sensibilities. This is a most welcome book, one that will be embraced by students, teachers and practitioners."—Barry Bozeman, Ph.D.
Ander Crenshaw Chair and Regents' Professor, Public Policy Dept. of Public Administration and Policy
University of Georgia
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