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Social Equity Is a Pillar of Public Administration

Social Equity Is a Pillar of Public Administration,James H. Svara,James R. Brunet

Social Equity Is a Pillar of Public Administration  
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In this article, the authors respond to points raised David Rosenbloom regarding our 2004 JPAE article "Filling in the Skeletal Pillar: Addressing Social Equity in Introductory Courses in Public Administration." We conclude with an operational definition of social equity for public administrators. James H. Svara teaches administrative ethics and the doctoral course in foundations of public administration in the Public Administration Program at North Carolina State University. He is chairman of the Research Committee of the Social Equity Panel of the National Academy of Public Administration. James R. Brunet teaches introduction to public administration and administrative ethics at North Carolina State University. His is currently conducting a review of social equity measures in criminal justice policy and administration in the United States for the Social Equity Panel of NAPA. The standing and importance of social equity in public administration is elevated by giving it careful scrutiny. In our article in the JPAE symposium on Teaching Social Equity (Svara and Brunet 2004), we examined and defined the concept, noted its vague and imprecise usage and the surprising lack of attention given to it in public administration textbooks, and proposed how the major elements of social equity could be incorporated into an introductory course. David Rosenbloom has provided scrutiny by confronting self-satisfying assumptions about social equity and fuzzy pronouncements about what it means. He challenges the basic notion that social equity is a useful—much less central—concept in public administration. In the final analysis, the points he makes help to clarify what social equity means and why it is important for public administration as a profession to be committed to its advancement. We will respond to each of the points Rosenbloom makes and then present, with refinements stimulated by his commentary, an operational definition of social equity. 1. What are the pillars? We acknowledge that we simply accepted the social-equity-as-third pillar analogy from the literature and sought to give it more precise meaning. We did not consider the fundamental question: "what are the pillars of public administration?" The rule of law is critically important, and we did not suggest that it was a subordinate component of social equity itself, although aspects of law are part of our measures of social equity. Dismissing the idea that administrators have a "duty" to "redistribute resources" (from White, 113), Rosenbloom argues that MPA students should "understand that public administrators are bound by the rule of law to implement regulations, such as regressive taxes, that may not comport with concepts of social equity." The binding nature of the
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