Commentary: Calling the Question: The Need for an ASPA Code of Ethics

Date01 September 2014
Published date01 September 2014
Calling the Question: The Need for an ASPA Code of Ethics 569
James M. Grant is a career public
administrator with the City of Los Angeles,
currently assigned to the Los Angeles Police
Department as a crime and intelligence
analyst. He holds a certif‌i cate in crime
and intelligence analysis from the State
of California Department of Justice. He
received a bachelor’s degree from the
University of California, Santa Barbara, in
1977 and a master of public administration
degree from California State University,
Long Beach, in 1993.
James M. Grant
City of Los Angeles
If there can be a Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, then why can’t there be an ASPA Code
of Ethics?  at may be the only question not
asked in James H. Svara’s cogent article, “Who
Are the Keepers of the Code? Articulating and
Upholding Ethical Standards in the Field of Public
Administration.” Svara provides a thoughtful dis-
course on the history of the American Society for
Public Administration (ASPA), ethics codes, and
public administration in general.
I wonder whether the society’s alleged disdain for such
codes harkens back to the McCarthy era, when public
employees at all levels were routinely required to
deny af‌f‌i liation with the Communist Party and other
organizations believed to be plotting the overthrow
of the U.S. government from within its shores. (At
one point, the NAACP and the B’nai Brith Anti-
Defamation League were thought to be such organiza-
tions by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.)  ose
who refused were summarily dismissed from employ-
ment or denied hiring.
Watergate purportedly triggered the creation of an
ASPA ethics code. John Ladd’s 1980 argument that,
in Svara’s words, “ethics cannot be set by f‌i at; hav-
ing a code conf‌l icts with the notion of ethics itself ”
may have prevailed. In any event, one can reason-
ably assert that ethics has not been at the top of any
discipline’s course list.  e idea that ethics is innate in
individuals has been both supported and refuted by
history. For example, in places as diverse as Germany,
Cambodia, and Rwanda, public administrators
actively planned the genocide of members of their
Calling the Question:  e Need for an ASPA Code of Ethics
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 74, Iss. 5, pp. 569–570. © 2014 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.12259.

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