Get access

To “Re-Hatch” Public Employees or Not? An Ethical Analysis of the Relaxation of Restrictions on Political Activities in Civil Service


James S. Bowman is a professor of public administration in the Askew School at Florida State University. He is the author of more than 100 journal articles and book chapters. He co-authored, with Jonathan P. West and Marcia A. Beck, The Professional Edge: Competencies in Public Service (2e; Sharpe, 2009) and, with Evan M. Berman, Jonathan P. West, and Montgomery VanWart Human Resource Management in Public Service: Paradoxes, Processes, and Problems (3e; Sage, 2009). He is the editor in chief of Public Integrity and a past fellow of the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration and the Kellogg Foundation.

Jonathan P. West is a professor of political science and director of the master of public administration program at the University of Miami. He has published eight books and more than 100 scholarly articles and book chapters. He coedited, with James S. Bowman, American Public Service: Radical Reform and the Merit System (Taylor & Francis, 2007) and, with Evan M. Berman, The Ethics Edge (ICMA, 2006). He is the managing editor of Public Integrity. He previously taught at the University of Arizona and the University of Houston.


This study examines the ethical content of legislation regulating the political activities of civil servants. The analysis is done using the “ethics triangle,” a tool that encompasses the interdependence of results-based utilitarian ethics, rule-based duty ethics, and virtue-based character ethics. The discussion begins with the importance of the problem, followed by its evolution and current status. After describing the methodology, the central section investigates the values at stake. The conclusion provides a synthesis of the findings, explores the implications of the study, and attempts to answer the question posed in the title of the paper.