in: The annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Volume 537, Issue 1, p. 163-172
To explain negative perceptions of government ethics, and particularly of the ethics of public administrators, the authors use the paradox of distance and the absence of role differentiation. In the paradox of distance, the public holds negative views of government generally and public administrators in the abstract, but they have favorable to very favorable views of governmental programs with which they interact and favorable views of the bureaucrats whom they encounter. Much of the negative perception of government ethics and the ethics of public officials is based on public observations of the misdeeds of those who are elected or politically appointed. These negative perceptions are well founded. Unfortunately, the public holds similarly negative views of merit civil servants, although these public officials are much less often associated with corruption or unethical behavior. Finally, the authors suggest that several contemporary governmental reforms will, in the long run, result in more rather than less government corruption.