Do Ethics Codes Matter?

There is a long-standing debate regarding the value of professional codes of ethics. Every occupation that claims it is a profession has a code of ethics. Some occupations such as city management and social work have elaborate codes that are taken quite seriously by their members. Other professions such as public administration are more ambivalent about the value and implementation of their code. The American Society for Public Administration has had a code in place since 1984. Upon applying for membership, the applicant has the option of checking the box that states “I have read and will abide by the ASPA Code of Ethics.” In other words, one can choose to abide or not to abide by the code as a member.

Now consider the latest development in the plight of ASPA’s code. The association’s premier journal–the Public Administration Review–no longer prints the code on the inside back cover where it has been for many years. Rather, the reader will find a URL as its replacement.

I spoke with the new editor recently about the missing code and he told me that the case needs to be made to print the code in PAR. Oh my goodness! Apparently the code in print has no symbolic value or practical value.

In today’s world where unethical behavior is rampant and corruption widespread how can a profession that is dedicated to public service so blithely dismiss the value of a code of ethics? Is it not so? Let me know what you think about the missing code from PAR? Should the code be printed on the back cover?



2 responses to Do Ethics Codes Matter?

  1. On March 23rd, 2012 at 3:41 pm , Carl Southwell said...

    Doesn’t the oath of office serve the same end (with, potentially, greater implications for its breach)? For example, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion;
    and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

  2. On June 11th, 2012 at 6:24 am , Taha said...

    I would say it definitely matters. I’m conducting a DBA research on Business Ethics and the importance of implementation and enforcement of Code of Ethics.

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