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Old Sunday, January 23, 2011
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Default Introduction to public adminstration

Public administration, in its simplest terms, is “what government does.” However, the actions and activities of government are so expansive that a simple definition is not feasible. The definition of public administration can be broken down into several different factors.

First, public administration has a political definition. Under its political definition, public administration is the actions of government that affect the daily lives of the citizens living under that government. These actions can be either direct, as when public employees serve members of the populace, or indirect, as when government agencies hire private contractors to carry out some aspect of public policy. Also, public administration’s political responsibilities include making decisions about what to do or not do while implementing the public interest. Finally, public administration is a “collective doing”: it is the work of a group to meet a goal that individuals could not meet as easily or well under their own, singular power

Public administration also has a legal definition. Public administration is inseparable from legality, since its creation and its actions are defined by law—it is expressed in the action of implementing legislation, and also in regulating the behavior of individuals and groups. Other legal definitions of public administration include its “largesse” power, or the ability to bestow jobs, goods and services on the citizens, and its role in the eyes of some as theft, as regulations and taxes take the rights and money from citizens. Those who criticize public administration in this manner often see it as theft regardless of ends—for instance, government organizations still rob people through taxes, even if that tax money goes toward education, health care, or other programs to benefit those same people.

Third, a managerial definition of public administration can be applied. Public administration is the executive function, carrying out legislation. Since such action needs to be managed in order to occur properly and efficiently, the process of running public organizations has become a management specialty. The vast majority of public administrators are members of middle management. Critics of public administration often apply the managerial definition to describe public administration as a “Mickey Mouse” venture: one that exerts considerable effort for very little gain.

The last major definition of public administration is an occupational one. Public administration is a job, but it is a very broad job title that includes within it almost any specialized career or skill possible. In the broadest sense, public administration includes anything and everything public employees do. Two of the common traits of all public administration jobs is that they rely very heavily on writing skills, and that the people in these jobs are often idealistic—they see themselves as working toward a better good for society. Finally, public administration has become an academic occupation as well as a public or career one: the study of management as applied to the public sector and the environments in which public administration operates have become more expansive in recent years.
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