Federalist No. 27: Is Transparency Essential for Public Confidence in Government?

Date01 December 2011
Published date01 December 2011
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02461.x
Stephanie P. Newbold is an assistant
professor of public administration and policy
at American University. Her research inter-
ests include the intellectual history of public
administration, American constitutional
theory, Western political thought, normative
foundations of public sector governance,
and the legal basis of public administration.
E-mail: newbold@american.edu
Is Transparency Essential for Public Conf‌i dence in Government? S47
Stephanie P. Newbold
American University
One of the great themes of e Federalist Papers is that
good government is dependent on good administration.
In Federalist No. 27, Publius underscores two important
themes. First, he argues that in order to preserve citizen
conf‌i dence in government, there must be competent
administration, and second, he maintains the need
for a strong national government to safeguard the
republican principles embedded within the Constitution.
Publius’s contribution to democratic theory and
American republicanism proves as enlightening today
as it was when he f‌i rst published this essay in 1787,
and it continues to provide important lessons for public
administration and the democratic governance process.
When debating key issues and policies
af‌f ecting the modern American state
and its democratic institutions, many
thoughtful people often ask, “What would the
founders think?” “What would they do?” “Would
they be proud of or disappointed at the way future
generations of Americans preserved their more perfect
union?” Of course, there is no def‌i nitive way for
any of us to know how the American framers would
decide the merits or shortcomings of a contemporary
public policy debate. What we can do, however, is
ref‌l ect on their great political
treatise, e Federalist Papers,
for extraordinary insight into
how Publius underscored his
expectations for strong public
administrative management in
the American constitutional
republic.
roughout e Federalist,
Publius reiterates the notion that
good government is depend-
ent on good administration.
According to the framers, the
republican form of government
created by the U.S. Constitution
would be the best ever known to
man because of its emphasis on
federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances,
and the protection of individual rights.  e f‌i eld of
public administration should remind itself consist-
ently that the historical underpinnings that shaped
the debates of both 1776 and 1787 continue to
strengthen the intellectual foundation of the American
administrative state.
To this point, a group of scholars has enriched the f‌i eld
with f‌i ndings that demonstrate how the republican
principles advocated during the nation’s founding are
consistent with the need to advance the constitutional
legitimacy of the administrative state and the multidi-
mensional complexities associated with the democratic
governance process (Green 2002, Moe and Gilmour
1995, Newbold 2010, Rohr 1986, Rosenbloom 1983,
Terry 2003). As both Dwight Waldo (1948) and John
Gaus (1950) argued more than half a century ago, pub-
lic administration constantly must be concerned with
the maintenance and preservation of democratic values.
More specif‌i cally, the research of Herbert Storing
(1981a, 1981b; see also Morgan et al. 2010) empha-
sizing the contributions of the Anti-Federalists to the
ratif‌i cation process illustrates many of the dif‌f‌i cul-
ties associated with important
constitutional principles that
continue to challenge the
boundaries of American repub-
licanism.  ese include, but
certainly are not limited to, the
protection of individual rights,
the powers and responsibilities
of the federal government, and
adequate citizen representation
in Congress. John Rohr (1986,
2002) complemented Storing’s
work by illustrating how the
political and administrative
preferences for governing as-
sociated with the Progressive
Era as well as with the collective
scholarship of Woodrow Wilson
Federalist No. 27: Is Transparency Essential for Public
Conf‌i dence in Government?
roughout e Federalist,
Publius reiterates the notion
that good government
is dependent on good
administration. …  e f‌i eld of
public administration should
remind itself consistently that
the historical underpinnings
that shaped the debates of
both 1776 and 1787 continue
to strengthen the intellectual
foundation of the American
administrative state.

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