2013. Vol.3, No.4, 339-346
Published Online October 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/sm) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/sm.2013.34046
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 339
Quest for Administrative Ethics in An Enemy of the People
A. S. M. Anwarullah Bhuiyan
Department of Philosophy, J ahang irnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Email: anwarullah1234@yahoo. com
Received July 9th, 2013; revised September 2nd, 2013; accepted Sep t ember 28th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 A. S. M. Anwarullah Bhuiyan. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original work is p roperly cited.
This article is related to the ethical problem that is faced by a public servant in his organization. It focuses
on relevant ideas, such as definition and components of administrative ethics. The attempt is to find out
an answer to the question: What would be the responsibility of a public servant? In order to spell out the
answer to this question, the article focuses on some ideas such as virtue ethics, principle of duty, problem
solving model and some form of democratic model. As a case study, I have chosen a play of Henerik Ib-
sen’s: An Enemy of the People. It also examines the concept of whistle blowing in the context of the play.
Keywords: Administrative Ethics; Virtue; Triangle Model; Duty; Principlism; Democratic Model; Whistle
Issues of political partnership, unequal treatment, physical or
sexual harassment and the ethics of whistle blowing have been
at the top of the ethical discussion in public administration. But,
some other related issues such as responsibility of public ser-
vant and the issue of empowerment (capacity of effective deci-
sion making) have been overlooked in the public discussion.
Public service deserves ethical practices because of protection
of unethical behavior, corruption and unusual uses of public
properties. Most of the unethical cases are caused by deficient
accountability, lack of proper controlling of wrong doing and
lack of effective guide of code of conduct. Therefore, it needs
to strengthen civil servants in ethical standards. The aim of this
paper is to respond to the question: What are the duties of a
civil servant or a public administrator? To spell out the answer
to this question, we choose a case of Henrik Ibsen’s play An
Enemy of the People whose main protagonist is Dr. Stock-
mann. Subsequent sections of this article will give a short
description of the problem. Sections 3 and 4 will attempt to
analysis the case for mapping an ethical responsibility of
Why Administrative Ethics?
Why does administrative ethics require for a public servant?
Before spelling out the answer to this question, we will explore
the view of administrative ethics. To understand the term we
can look at t he definition of ethics:
“[E]thics refers to well based standards of right and wrong
that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms
of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or spe-
cific virtues, or benefits to society.” (Velasquez et al.,
In this definition, we get different sources of ethics, for ex-
ample, duties, virtues, principles and benefits to the society.
Duty and virtue are the most important concepts for the people
those who are working in the organizations. The people who
are working in the government, non-governmental or even in
the nonprofit-organization their first duty is to serve the public,
and they should be trustees of public resources.
From the ethical standpoint, duty means the “actions or be-
havior due by moral or legal obligation. On the other hand,
responsibility, accountability, obligations and meeting expec-
tations are the traits of duty. Virtue is traits or character. In
Oxford Dictionary, the term virtue refers as “moral excellence;
goodness”. The term moral virtue is related to person’s moral
excellence. Virtue ethics teaches us how a person acts virtu-
ously. Public administrative ethics (hereinafter PAE) is based
on both of duty based ethics and virtue ethics. PAE is based on
duty-based ethics because the person who occupies a position
as a public servant should take responsibility of the organiza-
tion and also accountable to the public. On the other hand, PAE
is possible to expand virtue-based ethics, because public ad-
ministrator should be honest, they should demonstrate integrity.
There are also another two components essentially related to
administrative ethics, these are principles (justice, fairness and
equity) and beneficial consequences. Public administrator should
follow the principles of equality, fairness. By whom people
might endeavor to achieve a good result for the number of peo-
ple. This is called beneficial consequences. Therefore, it as-
sumes that public administrative ethics contains at least four
components can be shown in the Figure 1.
According to James Svara’s (2007) interpretation, admini-
strative ethics has different dimensions can be expressed by dif-
ferent questions that has introduced in the Table 1. We can give
a list what an administrator should follow can be given in the
Duty-based ethics helps the public administrator to identify
what duty she/he performs as the public servant. Virtue-based
et hics would help the administrator how she/he would be a good
person. Principle and consequences help the administrator how
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Four dimensions of administrative ethics expressed in questions (Svar a, 2007: p. 10).
Basic et h ical standard Expressed in the question Tenets
Duty What are the expectations of persons holding public offices?Responsibility, accountability, moral obligations and expectations
Virtues What are the qualities of a go od person? Honesty, competency, trustworthiness, integrity
Principle What is the right thing to do? Equality, fairnes s, legal law and justice
Benefici al consequences What is the most beneficial action to take? Good conse q u ences fo r all
Three ethical approach e s (This list is incorporated from: Svara, 2007: pp. 13, 15) .
Duty Virtue Principle
Serve the public Display honesty Follow the laws
Avoid confli ct of interest Show integrity Follow the policies or reg ulations
Promote the public interest Be respectfu l Act with fairness
Act as a steward of public resources Be consistent Treat all equally
Take responsibilities for actions Avoid impropriety Pro tect confidential information
Be accountable Have a strong work ethics Golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Share or disclose information to the public Do not lie
Blow the whistle on wrongdoing Avoid deception and misleading statements
they will work in a critical situation. So, it is clear that public
administrator ethics is balancing attention to duty, virtue, prin-
ciple and good consequences. Therefore, the definition of ad-
ministrative ethics is offered by James Svara:
“Administrative ethics refers to well-based standards of
right and wrong that prescribes what public administrators
ought to do, in terms of duty to public service, principles,
virtues, and benefits to society” (Svara, 2007: p. 16).
Duties of Public Servant: Ethical Perspective
This section attempts to find out three ethical questions re-
garding the issues of the play An Enemy of the People wrote by
Henrik Ibsen. Before doing so, it demands to give a brief syn-
opsis of Ibsen’s drama The Enemy of the People.
An Enemy of the People: A Synopsis
I would like to mention a story from Henerik Ibsen’s play An
Enemy of the People. In this play, Tomas Stockmann is a doctor
and also a civil servant at a small city in Norway. The story of
the play is put in a small town in Norway, where the only real
income of the city is the Baths that serve sick people coming to
get treated. The Baths also brings social harmony in additional
blessing. Stockmann is working their as a medical officer,
while his brother is the chairman of the Baths’s Board and also
a mayor of the city. Dr Stockmann also has long suspec ted that
the city bath is contaminated with poisonous bacteria, and the
bacteria infested water could fatal to the visitors or tourists who
gather there. The result of the laboratory test has made confirm
the suspect of Stockmann. He had discovered that the water of
the Bath is polluted. After getting the result, he had become
excited that he discovered the critical impact of the bacteria
infested water before anyone inflicted from its lethal danger. He
proposed to close the Bath until the pollution is removed.
At the beginning, his discovery is praised by many peoples,
newspapers and city inhabit a n t s. M or eo ve r, h e al so ge t s a ss ura nc e
of support of the different responsible persons, particularly,
newspapers’ editors, chairman of householders’ association and
the civil community. This support makes him courageous and
also happy, not because of that he is getting something like
security, social power and economic benefit, but because of the
sense of his community’s feelings of brotherhood. But, when it
becomes very clear to the city authority that the improvement
of the baths will cost high amount, then they turn against his
position. Dr Stockmann is willing to publish the truth of his
findings. The political factors give different consequences in
the life of Stcokmann. The city mayor read the test-report and
has shown doubt about the findings. City Mayor requests to Dr.
Stockmann to refuse the result of findings. Only because, if the
city going to repair the problem it expenses more money, and
this extra expenses have to be shouldered by the inhabitants of
the city. But, Dr. Stockmann refuses to refute the result. On the
other hand, the newspapers also considered the impact of this
news over the reader which would have a negative impact of
their newspaper, and then decided not to publish the report
Some Ethical Aspects in the Play
In the play, we find two conflicting duty: health risk and
public well-being. Both are the important issues to Dr. Stock-
mann. On the other hand, the burden of the losing economic
benefit is important to city authority. Considering the above
dilemma, what a virtuous agent would do in this circumstance?
Which of the virtues might guide our behavior in such a di-
lemma? Let consider the dilemma according to virtue theory. A
virtuous agent is one, who has the virtues as justice, compas-
sion, temperance, generosity, benevolence, integrit y, honesty and
courage. In the above cases, these virtues can guide us properly
to consider the fact. In being compassionate, Dr. Stockmann
should be compassionate to the situation. He should keep in
mind there are miserable result of revolt against the authority.
On the contrary, there is a virtue of benevolence. According to
this virtue, it is right to save others life. As a benevolent person,
Dr. Stockmann’s concern should be the well-being for the peo-
ple. It makes us think of graciousness, caring, hospitality, mag-
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 341
nanimity. But the lethal poisonous bacteria can interrupt the
well-being of city inhabitants or visitors. As a public servant,
Dr. Stockmann is right to think to circulate the result of the
scientific test amongst the people. On the other hand, as a
compassionate person, Dr. Stockmann should respect his family
member’s desire not to lose the job, his brother pity request and
like this. But, as a benevolent person, he would consider the
health care of the city’s people.
In my consideration, Dr. Stockmann has played a role in the
sense of Aristotelian virtue of courage. Virtue of courage is
also important in the case of friendship. As a friend of the city
people, it needs to show courage in the question of truth. For
the well-being of the city people Dr. Stockmann is right to tell
the truth with courageously. But, sometimes it seems that Dr.
Stockmann’s position is too far from the Aristotelian sense of
I would like to stress some theoretical aspects connected to
the idea of Aristotelian virtue. Virtue, in Aristotle’s opinion, is
a mean between two extreme states (Aristotle, 1999: pp. 27-30).
Acting, according to virtue, implies a rational decision: pro-
hairesis (including boulesis and bouleusis) towards the scope
and the means of our actions, acting virtuously always implying
to choose the middle way between two extremes. Temperance,
one of Aristole’s virtues, is seen as moderation in connection
with phronesis (prudence) (Aristotle, 1999: pp. 45-49). Pru-
dence is deliberative and it is the correct supposition about the
end. So, temperance, as courage, is deliberative. And, I do not
agree that Dr. Stockman’s position is far from the Aristotelian
sense of temperance. In that sense of Aristotelian virtue ethics, I
would say that Dr. Stockman’s position is completely in accor-
dance with the virtue of temperance. He chose to tell the truth
after a deliberative process—while he had contemplated the
ends of his two versions of action deciding for one of them—
and he acted according to both virtues of courage and temper-
I agree that it could be argued that Dr. Stockmann’s position
is more similar to Machiavelli’s view (Machiavelli, 1985) on
prudence (which is not that far from Aristotles’ opinion on
prudence). In Machiavelli’s opinion, prudence is also delibera-
tive (involving sagio) but it is not the mean between two ex-
tremes. If for Aristotle arête is a way of living, for Machiavelli
virtue is a mean in order to achieve utilitarian ends. Again, Dr.
Stockman faces a dilemma between Aristotle’s and Machia-
velli’s views on virtue: whether to act virtuously as a prima
facie argument, or to place the virtue of prudence to the scope
of the greater good of the city.
A very good example for this kind of situation and this kind
of dilemma is the case of Coventry in the Second World War.
Winston Churchill faced the same situation: whether to alert the
people of Coventry about the air ride that the Germans had
been planned, or not to tell anything and sacrifice the popula-
tion of Coventry for the greater scope of winning the war. It
was a dilemma between Aristotle’s and Machiavelli’s opinion
on virtue. Aristotle’s would have said that telling lies cannot be
virtuous, while Machiavelli would have argued that the virtue
of prudence would have claimed the leader to choose for that
position able to assure the achievement of the greater end of
winning the war. So, the example could compare with the posi-
tion of Stockmann in the play (Mansfield, 1996).
But this is also fact that he exhibits sense of impartiality in
term of fairness in his stance towards the city’s water pollution
dilemma. After fully exploring the facts and considering the
ethical sensitivities of the issue, we would conclude that as a
compassionate person Dr. Stockmann would characteristically
respect wishes of somebody else. But a s a be nevolent, co u r ag eo u s
and accountable citizen he is right in exploring the real truth of
the fact in publicly.
Ethical Questions and th e Play
Why does Svara thinks that duty based ethics is essential for
public administrator? A public administrator enters into the
service motivated by a sense of duty to serve the subjects. On
the other hand, the sense of duty is related to personal character
or virtues. Virtue such as honesty, integrity, competency and
beneficence can help public administrator carrying out their
duties. At the same time, principles (justice, fairness and equity)
and good consequences are also helpful to enhance the duty-
based ethics. Duty is a core component of the public admini-
strative ethics. It balances other components of ethics triangle
(Svara, 2007: p. 67). Considering ethics triangle; we can ana-
lyze the position of the public servants in the organization.
First Question: What Virtues Should Public Servants
Before spelling out the answer to this question, we have to
find out the answer: Who is virtuous people? According to
Macintyrean virtue ethics, virtuous person “is one who has the
capacity as well the desire to live up to the standards in order to
make the right decision in problematic moral situations” (Mac-
Intyre, 2007: p. 39). But, how is it possible to acquire? Goran
tells us, it is possible to acquire by following principle of re-
flective practice (Cf. Colleste, 2007).
Second Questions: What Sorts of Moral Principle
Can Guide Dr. Stockmann?
According to Svara, moral principles can guide us to identify
the right and wrong of an action in the sense of objectivity. In
the public administration ethics, there are two systematic ap-
proaches to identify moral principles: 1) Kantianism and 2)
Rawlsian theory of justice. Svara points out that task of public
administrator are related to the principle of justice. By follow-
ing the reference of John Rawls’s principle of justice, Svara
states, “[a] commitment to acting with justice embodies fairness
in the treatment of individual and social equity across groups”
(Svara, 2007: p. 58). Principle of justice is commonly under-
stood as equal and fair distribution of burden and benefits in
society and it concerns with giving individuals due. In the play,
according to my point of view, justice is the key issue in the
centre of the problem. Dr. Stockman understood, if the Baths
gradually poisonous by lethal organism the burdens of health
risk would have to bear the people of the city. On the other
hand, who will get benefit from this harm? Political superiors
(City Mayor) and other interest group (newspapers editors) will
get benefit from the decision. The burden and benefits are not
equally distributed here. Only basis of this ground, we can con-
clude that Dr. Stockmann’s position in accordance with justice.
Third Question: What Would Be the Best
Consequences That Could Be Achieved by
Dr. Stockman n?
Now we try to use consequentialist approach for a coherent
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
justification of Dr. Stcokmann’s role in the play. James Svara
agrees with Gerald Pops that public choice model is largely
derived from utilitarianism. Both utilitarianism and consequen-
tialism is the one form of teleological approach (Svara, 2007: p.
59). It holds the view that right or wrong of any action depends
on its consequences. The basic idea of utilitarian theory is to
maximize the well-being of the highest number of people. This
theory is based on the view that the action would be acceptable
if it can produce the best outcome. In the context of conflicting
situation, utilitarianism requires one to aggregate the risks for
all members of the society. Svara incorporates this theory into
the thinking about administrative ethics (Svara, 2007: pp. 58-
60). To reach the greatest welfare of the society, this theory
compels anyone to do the best he can. A question may raise
here: What may be the best action for Dr. Stockmann? In re-
sponse to this question, there are two options open to him:
Option 1): there is an offer from Mayor to refuse the truth of
Option 2): circulates the truth amongst the public audience
for creating consciousness of the lethal pollution.
Dr. Stockmann did the second one. If he would have enter-
tained the proposal of Mayor (Option 1), then he would have
gained some benefit for himself. But, the refusal of proposal
brings lots of misery before him as we have explained this in
our previous discussion. According to the sense of consequen-
tialism, Dr. Stockmann is consistent, because he considers the
risk for all members of the society. He is the responsible person
to prevent the risk of health. So, it is imperative for a public
servant to maximize the interest of maxi mum people.
Administrative Ethics and Problem Solving
In the conflicting situation, what would be the possible duty
of a public servant? Public administrative ethics try to give a
solution of this problem. James Svara proposes three stages of
the model which we can show in Figure 2 and Table 2.
On the basis of description and analysis we may draw a de-
cision. At the first stage, the model starts with “description”.
Description helps to identify the facts of the situation and also
assess the interests of stakeholders. Some times this is also
called stakeholder analysis.
To reach into the decision, public servant should analyze the
sit u a t i on and his professional role. This is the seco nd stage of the
model. In the analysis stage there are two potential elements of
the model, according to Svara (S vara, 2007: pp . 110- 111), th ey are:
1) The public servants should determine the obligation, their
actual position and professional role and
2) One applies each of the ethical theory to the situation.
At this stage, public servant would determine his/her duty
considering the obligations and responsibilities of his/her insti-
tutional position. Public servant should careful to “advancing
the public interest” (Svara, 2007: p. 108) and “promoting the
democratic process” (Svara, 2007: p. 108). In order to consider
the situation, public servant would follow three ethical ap-
proaches: 1) Virtue based approach; 2) Principle based ap-
proach; and 3) Consequence based approach. These three ap-
proaches have discussed in the previous section. Decision is the
final stage of the model. At this stage, public servant should
choose only one alternative from the many. And, he should pro-
vide an argume n t for the decision .
In the problem-solving model, description provides a way to
find out the solution of some problems: firstly, in the decision
making process it needs to find out who are affected by the
situation? Secondly, need to clarify what are the interests of
these parties? Is the public servant helping them or not? It is
essential to define what is a public interest and what is the real
interest and what do people think their interest is. Thirdly, we
have to identify what kind of duties the public servant has to
achieve for serving the people and stakeholders.
Moreover, it should emphasize a public servant that she/he
has more than one duty to perform for the people. As a civil
servant, he has also an obligation to the organization. As a part
of the organization, a public servant cannot just do what he
likes and he should not take straight stand against his authority
or office boss. On the other hand, as a member of the commu-
nity public servant has some obligations to his fellow man and
must not bluntly ignore their well-being and even the prosperity
of his own city. In our practical life, it is not possible to fulfill
all principles of the duty. There are lots of conflicting duties
that are excluding one another. In the same time, may be, it is
not possible to meet all interests of all people, but there could
be a way to solve the problem gradually through time. If we
solve problems easily or if we would not have conflicting du-
ties we not need any ethical reflection as we be able to decide
what to do quite easily. But, the things are not so easy, this is
why, we need some kind of ethical analyzes of situations.
Democratic Model and Public Servant’s Duty
Now we ask: What the public servant should do? How
should he works with all these obligations he has? Of course, a
public servant should do something, as soon as possible. But,
he or she should not completely abandon his role as a public
servant and as a citizen of the state. For example, as a part of an
organization public servants have some obligations towards his
superiors. Sometime s public servant may face some conflicting
situation where she/he needs to oppose his/her superior due to
maintaining the interest of maximum people of the society. In
that case, how we analyze the situation? In this regard, I would
like to consider two model of democracy in respect of public
servant’s duty: a. representative democracy and b. participatory
democracy (Burke, 1986: Chapter 3). These two models of de-
mocracy have different implications for the duty of civil ser-
Representative Democratic Model
In the representative democratic model, the key relation be-
tween public servants and their political superior is dependent
on hierarchy relation. According to this democratic model, the
public servants only serve and obey their political superior.
Weberian justification of duty of civil servant also recommends
to obey political s uperior:
“The honor of the civil servant is vested in his ability to
execute conscientiously the order of the superior autho-
rities, exactly as if the order agreed with his own convic-
tion… Without this moral disciplines and self-denial, in
the highest sense, the whole apparatus would fall to
pieces.” (Fry & Nigro, 1998: p. 1200).
According to Weberian consideration, public servant should
execute the decision of political superior consciously. Here, we
can ask a question: if any decision of political superiors convict
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 343
seriously wrong or against the public interest does civil servant
obey the instruction of political superior? For example, we can
mention Dr. Stockmann’s position, which is determined on the
bases of public interest. For example, the laboratory test proved
that the water of the Baths “presence of decomposing organic
matter” and it is full of infusorians, which is absolutely dan-
gerous to use, whether to drink or bathe in. But, the Mayor
considers the issue in the sense of political interest, rather its
devastating impact on public health. So, the dilemma remains
in the confrontation of public interest and public harm. As a
public servant, according to Weber, Dr. Stockmann necessarily
would have obeyed the order of Mayor. On the other side, as a
fellow being he has to duty to realize the well-being of them. In
that circumstances what would be exact duty of a public servant?
We can consider this dilemma at least two ways:
1) If political superior instruct the civil servant to do some-
thing whether it is against the public interest, she/he must into
the trouble to face the problem. So, have their any middle-way
for public servant to avoid the situation? The answer to this
question is not quite simple. In the case of Stockmann, the
problem is so tricky and complex one. In this context, political
superior expect not to publish the lab-report in publicly. But, as
a public servant and physician Stockmann thinks it is his duty
to explore the result of test publicly, in order to create consci-
entious amongst the people about water pollution of the bath.
2) Now we can consider the dilemma by following the
principlist approach of Tom Beauchamp and James Childress
(Beauchamp & Childress, 2001). We can justify the moral duty
of a public servant in the sense of beneficence and non-
maleficence. Benefit to others and prevent harm are the heart of
these two principles. For example, if we consider the well-
being of the citizen is an appropriate goal of public service and
the prevention of harm are the duty of a public servant, and
then the action of the public servant would be ethical. The prin-
ciple of non-maleficence tells us “do not harm to others”. It
suggests us we should not provide such an ineffective treatment
to citizens as these offer risk with no possibility of wellbeing.
For example, Dr. Stockmann is confirmed that there is a “pres-
ence of decomposing organic matter” in the water of the Bath.
And, this organic matter is dangerous for public health. In that
situation, the principle of beneficence and non-maleficence
would guide him to prevent the dangerous effect of organic
matter in the water and strive to make awareness amongst the
people as well. These two principles also provide a concrete
guidance in the case of public-welfare.
According to principlism, the public servant should perform
their duty in the sense of public wellbeing. Public servant
should prevent such an ineffective treatment to citizens which
offer risk with no possibility of wellbeing. And they should be
concerned about the benefit of citizen. In this consideration, the
task and duty of public servant as assigned in representative
democracy is not ethically well accepted. So, according to rep-
resentative democracy, the duty of public servant does not fit
with the principlism. In the true sense of principlism, Dr.
Stockmann is right what he did as a public servant. As a public
servant and physician of the city, his position is ethically ac-
Participatory Democratic Model
In the participatory democratic model, the duty of public
servant is well-defined. There is a direct relationship between
citizen and political superior. In this democratic model, public
servant is not bound to obey the order of political superior; they
will only serve the public interest. This model of democracy
allows the public servant to ensuring fair decision. Participatory
model depends on the mutual understanding of the group mem-
bers, but in the question of group interest it is not well-enough.
In the play, the role of Dr. Stockmann is consistent with the
sense of participatory democracy. Throughout the play, we find
that Dr. Stockmann attempts to share of his vision with the
people of the city. Dr. Stockmann spontaneously shares the
crucial matter of water pollution of the city Baths with the dif-
ferent professional groups irrespectively. But, the miserable
result comes up within the process of autocratic-bureaucracy.
Is participatory democracy can make compatible consensus
without disputation? Some critics identify that this model of
democracy may still be insufficient for ensuring fair participa-
tion. Most of the cases more participation affected the people
interest. From various aspects, we can be shown that participa-
tory be a problem for decision making. It allows to including
various model competing interest groups and each of the inter-
est group has an equal opportunity to express their opinion. In
the pluralistic society, there is an also well integrated group,
which is insist of powerful and more intellectual personality
who can change the situation. In this above situation public
servants would faces some problems:
1) If the public servant takes into consideration the different
opposing points of view, then it will be difficult for them to
reach into a consensus.
2) Sometimes involving interest groups are not equal in the
sense of knowledge, skills, research capacity and resources.
Now the question: how could a public servant identify which
of the consensus is superior or more consensuses to others? I
think, public servant can deal the problems different ways: 1) in
the conflicting situation it emphasizes on dialogue. Dialogue
could play a role both in the sense of speaking and listening. As
a process, it reveals both common understanding and real dif-
ferences. So, dialogue would be the best possible way to deal
the problem; 2) Dewey’s model of social intelligence can help
the public servant to deal the problem. This model seems to
presuppose a shared culture, or at least shared moral values.
This is why, it will be uniquely well-suited to arrangements like
public servant; 3) Rawlsian comprehensive doctrine (it includes
divergence forms of value and belief) can also help the public
servant to deal the problem. I think in this way a public servant
can balancing between public interest and political superior’s
interest. Balancing could help them to serve the proper duty as
a public servant.
We can back to the question again: Have their any middle
way for a public servant to manage the problem? We can ad-
dress the answer to this question in considering the view of
Miles. He offers that “you win some and you lose some, and as
long as your percentage of wins is a tolerable average, you hang
in there and feel that the ball game is worth the playing (Svara,
2007: p. 108). Miles offers a middle way which help to mini-
mize the crisis between public servant and political superior. In
his another writing, Miles says a public servant must argue as
“effectively as he knows how for his convictions” (Miles, 1970:
pp. 30, 36). In this writing up he also concludes that if a civil
servant looses the argument he has to fulfill the tasks set up by
his superior to the full extent, but he also adds that this kind of
game is worth playing “as long as your percentage of wins is a
tolerable average” (Miles, 1970: p. 30).
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
If I Were Dr. Stcokmann: An Alternative
As a public servant, Dr. Stockmann should consider the dev-
astating impact of his decision and causes to the city people. As
a prudent public servant, he should alert about the stand of po-
litical superior. Whereas the political superior refuses to believe
the result of scientific test and urges the doctor to not explore
the message in publicly. On the other hand, it is a duty for a
doctor to protect the public’s health from the lethal threats. As a
matter of fact, according to bureaucratic formulation, it is
obligatory to obey the order of official superior. But, public
health concern should not get less priority than the obeying
order of a superior. As a civil servant, Stockmann has to keep
these obligations in mind.
In this regard, what is wrong with Dr. Stockmann? What
would we do in this conflicting situation? In my consideration,
Dr. Stockmann is right to disclose the report what he discov-
ered in the city bath, i.e. the health danger pathogenic microor-
ganisms. Certainly this discovery could have made awareness
among the people and also alert the city authority to cleaning
up the pollution of the water.
In this regard, I would like to focus on the public under-
standing of science. According to Daubert Scientific Evidence
Debate (Daubert, 1993, 509 US 579, 593), any admissible sci-
entific testimony of course based on adequate data, reliable
method, principles and should be “correspondent to the factual
circumstances”. Along with this, of course, a scientist should
remember the fact that the public is the consumer of science. So,
practicing science in the public sphere it requires to realizing
the public understanding of science. The science and scientific
testimony is worthless in before the public majority. In the play,
we have seen that the government body (Mayor of the city), the
press, the business man and the majority people of the city join
together in denial of scientific testimony. It means sometime
science and society becomes in conflict. This conflict is be-
tween genuine science and junk science. A genuine science
does not motivate, biased or based on the interest of somebody
else. It is rhetoric and also emphasis the laboratory testimony.
In the play Dr. Stockmann takes a stand in favor of “genuine
science”. On the other hand, junk science is biased and neces-
sarily entangled in social structures. Dr. Stockmann’s discov-
ered the pathogenic organism depending on the method of good
science. But, the denial of this scientific report is the result of
junk science, which is the production of economic interest,
political expediency, press and social bias. Finally, the junk
science wins the game.
I think science itself is not isolated from the demand of soci-
ety. Societal need, public interest and cultural values need to
consider in practicing scientific research. After discovering the
pathogenic organisms Dr. Stockmann explores the risk evalua-
tion and the dangerous effect of the organism. But more tech-
nically he cannot demonstrate the danger due to lack of the
sense of junk science. But, Mrs Stockmann understood the fact,
as she says: “without power, what good is the truth?” Her
comments reveal the fact that scientific authority is not isolated
from the social matter or political power.
All the things reveal that the scientific evidence is not only
depends on rhetoric testimony, it also be characterized as a
public role. For example, the discovering scientific truth by
Stockmann has become less significant for the social context of
science. All these facts provide that science and scientific
expertise are not only depends on scientific truth. Scientific
expertise has two contexts: social context and scientific com-
1) If the public do not receive the scientific knowledge it
becomes insignificant or meaningless, and
2) Scientific knowledge cannot be fruitful, if it does not bring
any well being for the public.
The effectiveness of scientific knowledge can be m a te r i al i zi ng
through public understanding of science. But his arrogance,
self-righteousness, exaggerates se nse of scientific evidence a ff e ct
the public reception of science. Even his knowledge is not
aligned with the sentiment of political interest. Thus, Dr.
Stockamann has failed to construe a real conciliation between
science and social context. Considering all of these things, if I
were in the position of Dr. Stockmann I would emphasize on
some points: 1) It needs to capable to conceive the aspect of
science within the system of social values; 2) public trust
should get priority in public service, and as a public servant we
should care public interest; and 3) as a public servant, we
should encourage our political superiors to fulfill their duty; 4)
there is no place in public service to be arrogant and revolu-
ti onary . B ut, in the play Dr. Stockmann’ exaggerates confidence
and arrogant attitude create threatened in public mind and that
may result higher taxes for fixing the problem and economic
disaster by losing ongoing tourism.
Whistle-Blowing and Public Servant
How do we understand the term whistle-blowing? According
Svara, it means: “When a staff member becomes aware of a
problem within a public organization, the active responses are
to raise the matter internally or to alert someone outside the
organization” (Svara, 2007: p. 115). The second point of this
definition “sounding an alarm outside the organizations” is a
real sense of whistle-blowing. “Whistle-blowing” is not ethi-
cally unacceptable. But, many exponents believe that it should
be done only when all other possibilities are exhausted. At the
first step, the public servant would do is to inform his/her supe-
riors, before exploring the information to anyone else.
Is the play An Enemy of the People a best example of whis-
tle-blowing according to the sense of Svara? In order to ad-
dressing the answer to this question we can revisit the play once
again. When Dr. Stockmann discovers that water of the baths is
polluted then he requests the city management to take an action
to stop the lethal contamination. The sequence of the play de-
veloped as an instance of whistle-blowing. Firstly, Dr. Stock-
mann explodes the problem outside of the organization. Sec-
ondly, we see the persecution of whistle-blower. As a whistle-
blower Dr. Stockmann is dismissed from his position, his
daughter also dismissed from school teacher. People threats
him and start to break his windows of the house. The people of
the city considered his actions irresponsible, his discover is
discredited. He is also distrusted in every context.
Sometime, it assumes that Stockmann’s impatient behavior,
anger and lashing out at the public meeting give a different
result of the scientific evidence. Through these activities, in fact,
some may blame Stockmann that he has ignored the profess-
ional effectiveness. Not only that the critics may also argue that
his misfiring alienating tirades also creates an insurmountable
public health constraint and public distrust. In favor of their
argument they can explore that any science or policy firstly
requires trust [trustworthiness]. As a doctor and public servant
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 345
nobody avoid this reality. But, my point of view, Dr. Stock-
mann has played a role of a responsible whistle-blower. As a
responsible whistle-blower, he feels to prevent the negative
effect of the organization. Along with the saving of organiza-
tion’s interest, he is also accountable to maintain the public
interest rather than any interest of organizational superiors.
Sometime it has claimed that a whistle-blower should be cour-
ageous person. They should grapple to protect the public harm.
As standing up for moral norms they can be a suffering experi-
ence. We could revisit the traits of whistle-blowers as explained
by svara. He states whistle-blowers “are inspired by duty and
are reinforced by each of the philosophical perspectives” (Svara,
2007: p. 127). In the play, Dr. Stockmann is such a person who
is inspired by duty and reinforces by “virtue of courage”.
In my point of view, Dr. Stockmann is a responsible whis-
tle-blower. A responsible whistle-blower always feel to prevent
the negative effect of the organization, they also interfere in the
case of public common good. A responsible whistle-blower
should accountable to maintain the public interest rather than
any interest of organizational supe riors. Sometime it has cl ai me d
that a whistle-blower should be courageous person. They should
grapple to protect the public harm. As standing up for moral
norms they can be a suffering experience. As Svara States
whistle-blowers “are inspired by duty and are reinforced by
each of the philosophical perspectives” (Svara, 2007: p. 127).
In the play, Dr. Stockmann is such a person who is inspired by
duty and reinforces by “virtue of courage”.
Barry consider whistle-blowing as a voice of justice, pro-
tecting means of public interest, asserting as an “avenue for
maintaining integrity by speaking one’s truth about what is
right and what is wrong”. In this consideration Dr. Stockmann
is a responsible whistle-blower. We find his voice of cons-
“Dr. Stockmann. Who the devil cares whether there is
any risk or not! What I am doing, I am doing in the name
of truth and for the sake of my conscience” (Ibsen, 2001:
His stand to truth and justice reflects on the several dialogues
in the play, we can mention it once again:
“Dr. Stockmann. You should never wear your best trou-
sers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth. It is
not that I care so much about the trousers, you know; you
can always sew them up again for me” (Ibsen, 2001: p.
Considering all this things, we can state that Dr. Stockmann
has played a role of responsible whistle-blower.
Throughout the previous sections of this article, I have at-
tempted to find out an answer to the question: What would be
the responsibility of a public servant? To find out the answer to
this question, I have explored a debate between professional
role and moral role of a public servant. In the play, Ibsen
sketched the character Dr. Stockmann who performed only
moral role as a public servant. According to the representative
democratic model, Dr. Stockmann’s role cannot be accepted as
a role of a public servant. He has played a role as a virtuous
person. He discovered lethal pathogenic microscopic organism
in the water, and metaphorically, this bacteria is the immoral
black spot of a society. It is a moral obligation for intelligent
people to cure the problem. However, to face the problem, it
needs to be courageous, honest and with noble ideals. Dr.
Stockmann is such a person who is faced with the problem
with courageous personality though the most of the people
have turned against him and call him an “enemy of the peo-
In spite of these sufferings, he was remained unrelenting in
pursuit of the scientific truth. Ibsen portrays a character like Dr.
Stockman as a public servant who pursues truth and social jus-
tice. Sometimes, it seems that he is an alienate m oralist (Rosh-
wald, 2004.). The discussion of the previous sections reveals
the fact that a public servant should uphold the voice of truth
and justice. This makes a sense that a public servant should be
courageous to establish the truth and justice in the society that
we find in Dr. Stockmann. He also performs the “special duty
to protect and serve the public interest” (Goodsell, 2006: p. 63).
In that sense, Dr. Stockmann is a successful moralist and a
public administrator (Maesschalck, 2004: pp. 456-489).
Description of Figures and Tables
It assumes that public administrative ethics contains at least
four components, which can be shown in the following diagram
(see Figure 1).
In the Figure 1, there are 4 circles intersect in a common
point. As for Circle 1 is referred for duty, 2 is for moral princi-
ples, Circle 3 is for consequence and Circle 4 for virtue. This
figure also assumes that public administrative ethics contains at
least four components: duty, moral principle, consequence and
This Figure 2 has shown that in the conflicti ng situation, public
administrative ethics try to give a solution of this problem. James
Svara proposes three stages of the model which we can show in
the following triangle (see Figure 2 ) (Svara, 2007: p. 108.).
Components of administrative ethics.
Problem solving model.
A. S. M. A. BHUIYAN
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
In the triangle, at the first stage, the model starts with “de-
scription”. To reach into the decision, public servant should
analyze the situation and his professional role. This is the sec-
ond stage of the model. In the analysis stage there are two po-
tential elements of the model, according to Svara (Svara, 2007:
A public servant duty can be expressed in term of some
questions. These questions ultimately repsenets some tenest
that have to necessarily follow by a public servant.
In Tables 1 and 2, a list of ethical principels has shown that
are fo llowed in di fferent et hics: duty -based ethi cs, virtue ethics
and principlism. The ingredients that are existed in duty-row in
the table indicate that a public administrator can perform his
duty according to these principles. Virtue-ethics would help a
public administrator how she/he would be a good person.
However, this table has shown that a public administrative eth-
ics is a kind of balancing among the principles of duty, virtue
and good consequences.
Aristotle (1999). Nicomahean ethics (2nd ed.). In T. Irwin (Ed.), Hac-
ket Publishing Company Inc., Cambridge: Indianapolis Press.
Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (2001). Principles of biomedical
ethics (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Burke, J. (1986). Bureaucratic responsibility. Baltimore, MD: Johns
Collste, Goran (2007). Perspective on applied ethics. Linkoping: Centre
for Applied Ethics (CTE), Linkoping University.
Daubert (1993). Daubert v. USA: Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Fry, B., & Nigro, L. G. (1998). Five great issues in the public admini-
stration. In J. Rabin, W. B. Hildreth, & G. J. Miller (Eds.), Handbook
of public administration (2nd ed., p. 1200). USA: Phoenix.
Goodsell, C. (2006). A new vision for public administration. Public
Administration Review, 66.
Ibsen, H. (2001). An enemy of the people (translated by F. Sharp). A
Play in Five Acts, A Penn State Electronic Classics Series Publica-
tion. Pennsylvania: T he P e nn s ylvania State University Pres s.
Machiavelli, N. (1985). The prince (translated by H. C. Mansfield Jr.).
Chicago: The Universi ty of Chicago Press.
Machiavelli, N. (1996). Discourses on Livy (translated by H. C. Mans-
field Jr., & N. Tarcov). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
MacIntyre, A. (2007). After virtue. Notre Dame: University of Notre
Maesschalck, J. (2004). The impact of new public management re-
forms on public servants’ ethics: Towards a theory. Public Admini-
stration, 82, 465-489.
Maesschalck, J. (2004-2005). Approaches to ethics management in the
public sector. Public Integrity, 7, 21-41.
Mansfield Jr., H. C. (1996). Machiavelli’s virtue. Chicago: The Univer-
sity of Chicago Press.
Menzel, D. (2005). Research on ethics and integrity in governance: A
review and assessment. Public Integrity, 7, 147-168.
Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univer-
Roshwald, M. (2004) The alienated moralist in an enemy of the people.
Schon, D. A. (1996). Educating the reflective practitioner: Toward a
new design for teaching and learning in the professions. San Fran-
cisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc.
Svara, J. (2007). The ethics primer: For public administrators in gov-
ernment and nonprofit organizations. Boston: Jones and Bartlett
Velasquez, M., Andre, C., Shanks, S.J., & Meyer, M. (1987). What is
ethics? Journal of Issues in Ethics, 1, 623-635.