Legitimacy, History and Logic: Public Administration and the Constitution

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Public Administration Review


The Constitutional School of public administration (notably Rohr 1986) is vulnerable to attacks because of the Idealists’ method of historical explanation used by many scholars to explain the actions and intentions of the founding fathers. This method presents a problem for the Constitutional School because it fosters a romanticized view of the founders, which raises questions, in turn, about their conduct and character. Such questions, particularly those relating to the issue of slavery, weaken the force of the argument offered by Constitutional School scholars. There is no need to rely solely on a purely historical approach to legitimate the administrative state with constitutional principles. An active public administration may also be grounded in the logic of a constitution that pertains to the checking of power; this approach transcends history and the troubling moral legacy of the founders. Although the constitutional role for public administration advocated here may not seem to be adequately heroic and inspiring, it is nevertheless consistent with the logic of a constitution. As such, it may at least serve as a legitimate benchmark for defining the minimum requirements of an active role for public administration that can win support from a variety of ideological perspectives.





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