Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

Inducing governmental organizations to do the right thing is the central problem of public administration. Especially sharp challenges arise when “the right thing” means executing not only a primary mission but also constraints on that mission (what Philip Selznick aptly labeled “precarious values”). In a classic example, we want police to prevent and respond to crime and maintain public order, but to do so without infringing anyone’s civil rights. In the federal government, if Congress or another principal wants an executive agency to pay attention not only to its mission, but also to some other constraining or even conflicting value—I will call that additional value, generically, “Goodness” that principal has several choices. Congress can somehow impel the agency to try to seed the constraining value widely throughout its ranks—for example, by using supervision tools or incentives to get many agency employees to pay attention to Goodness. Or Congress can empower some other federal organization more closely aligned with Goodness to play an augmented role in the agency’s affairs. This Article provides the first theoretical account of an important third approach: furthering Goodness by giving it an institutional home, a subsidiary agency office I call an “Office of Goodness.” Offices of Goodness have often been created by Congress when it has sought to instill in particular agencies values that are important to the moving Members but less than central to the agencies; presidents, too, have created them for a variety of political ends.


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