Public Administration Is Different From Business Administration


Public administration deals with policies and budgets. Business administration deals with marketing and profits. Governments are not-for-profit. Business is ruled by supply and demand. Social policies such as global warming are secondary considerations if contemplated at all.

In the 1960s, the Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara and his young assistants developed what has since been the modus operandi for responsible governance. What he implemented was referred to as P.P.B.S. or Planning Programming and Budgeting Systems.

It differs from the cost-benefit analysis that businesses engage in after a marketing plan has already been implemented usually based upon the instincts of the officers of the corporation.

Government administration is far different because the plan must correspond to a policy that is either based upon consensus or is the product of a leader’s initiative. Once a policy or a solution to a vexing problem has been agreed upon, the next step is to develop a plan or effective solution to the problem. Both the policy and the plan are driven by a vast amount of data which helps to explain the impact of the policy, plan and projected program on individual groups and society as a whole. At the same time political considerations are also closely studied in terms of the fallout, if any, from the program.

Assuming that all of that can be logistically resolved, the next step is to determine cost, both short term and long term. The cost of the program is one factor to be determined while the “ripple effect” upon the overall economy and the budget as a whole must all be determined.

The problem with Mr. Trump’s taking a meat axe to various programs and policies within days of his inauguration is that he has not yet had the benefit of the deep analysis which P.P.B.S. provides. He is functioning on the basis of campaign promises and a businessman’s instincts rather than the analysis that is required in order to properly shape government policy. In the end his may luck out. His ideas may benefit the United States and the world. On the other hand, many of his knee-jerk policies are already being objected to worldwide. The outcome is uncertain and the world will not rely on Mr. Trump’s instincts alone, especially when they have proven to be far less than bullet proof in the past. They will also not stand for his unilateral revamping of long standing policies.

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Thomas F. Liotti is an attorney in Garden City and Village Justice in Westbury. He is also an adjunct professor of litigation in the legal studies department at Nassau Community College.

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