Morals often sacrificed for the good of the country

11/17/05

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 journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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