Morals often sacrificed for the good of the country

November 17, 2005

A new study published in the latest issue of Public Administration Review looks at the moral dilemmas and implications that arise when statesmen abandon their principles for the good of the state. Author Stephanie Newbold explains that elected officials often enter public office with an ideology or perspective for how the government should be managed and what it is and is not responsible for. But governing a nation is quite different from the way individuals govern themselves or what they believe the government should be. With the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson turned on his values, but made the best decision for the economic, political, and national security interests of the American people.

A decision and legacy that worried him until the day he died. "His choice was the wrong decision for his peace of mind, his moral consistency, and the principle of strict construction, but it was the right decision for the nation," Newbold states.

Jefferson met the criteria of a "genuine man." He did so by, at the same time, admitting the constitutionally immoral nature of his action (he made the purchase without congressional consent) and benefits of the action to the nation. His executive action serves as a noteworthy case that highlights the ethical complexities of statesmanship, administrative ethics, and public administration. "Jefferson lived for, and not off politics," Newbold concludes.

This study appears in the November issue of Public Administration ReviewTM. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article please contact
Public Administration ReviewTM has been the premier journal in the field of public administration research, theory, and practice for more than 60 years. Published for the American Society for Public Administration TM/SM, its articles identify and analyze current trends, provide a factual basis for decision making, stimulate discussion, and make the leading literature in the field available in an easily accessible format.

The Society name, logo and journal title are trademarks and/or service marks of the American Society for Public Administration, Washington, D.C. Used with permission.

Stephanie Newbold is a doctoral candidate in the Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech. She is currently a research associate at the Institute for Policy Outreach, Virginia Tech. Ms. Newbold is available for questions and interviews.

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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