John Rohr

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John Anthony Rohr (1934 - August 10, 2011) was an American political scientist and Professor Emeritus at the Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech. Rohr is particularly known as a leading scholar of the U.S. Constitution in relationship to civil servants and public administration.

Quotes[edit]

  • A "value" in the life of a person as well as a nation suggests a pattern of attitudes or behavior that recurs with some frequency. An attitude or a passion or a principle must have a history—either personal or societal before it becomes a "value."
    • John Rohr (1976). "The study of ethics in a P.A. Curriculum." Public Administration Review, 36, p. 402
  • The Public Administration neither comprises nor heads any branch of government but is subordinate to all three of them. Like Congress, president, and courts, the Public Administration makes its distinctive contribution in a manner consistent with its peculiar place, which is one of subordination.
    • John Rohr (1990) "The constitutional case for public administration." In G. L. Wamsley et al. (eds.), Refounding public administration, Sage. p. 80
  • REGIME VALUES. An expression used frequently in public administration literature to denote the fundamental principles of a polity which, ordinarily, should guide administrative behavior. Although the term applies in principle to any polity, de facto it appears almost exclusively in literature focused on the United States. The expression entered the public administration literature in the first edition of this author’s Ethics for Bureaucrats: An Essay on Law and Values.
    • John Rohr (1998), "Regime values." In J. M. Shafritz (ed.), International encyclopedia of public policy and administration. Westview Press. p. 1929

To run a constitution, 1986[edit]

John Anthony Rohr, To run a constitution: The legitimacy of the administrative state. University Press of Kansas, 1986.

  • The purpose of this book is to legitimate the administrative state in terms of constitutional principle... Because public administrators at virtually all levels of government take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, this neglect deprives the profession of the opportunity to consider an important normative foundation for its activities.
    • p. ix
  • The book's focus is on the troubling questions of legitimacy that survive the resolution of a legal controversy. With constitutional issues, there are many such survivors, because the Constitution is more than a legal document; it is covenant as well as a contract.
    • p. x.
  • To illustrate the point of legitimacy-beyond-legality, consider the American Nazi party, the Flat Earth Society, and Hustler magazine. All three are quite legal, but they lack legitimacy. We acquiesce in their presence as the price we pay for living in a free society; but we refuse to take them seriously as "legitimate" expressions of political action, scientific inquiry or literary endeavor.
    • p. x
  • Alexander Hamilton spoke the language of legitimacy when, as Publius, he noted in Federalist 27 the connection between sound Public Administration and widespread popular support
    • p. x
  • Legitimacy means more than a grudging acceptance of the inevitable.3 The word suggests at least confidence and respect and, at times, even warmth and affection.
    • p. x
  • [The administrative state is legitimate because it] is consistent with the Constitution, fulfills its design, and heals a longstanding major defect.
    • p. 13
  • The creationist account is as factual, historical and perspicuous and is thus fundamental in the understanding of every fact and phenomenon in the created universe.
    • p. 176
  • Administrators should use their discretionary power in order to maintain the constitutional balance of powers in support of instilling individual rights.
    • p. 181

Ethics for bureaucrats, 1988[edit]

John Rohr, Ethics for bureaucrats: An essay on law and values. Vol. 36. CRC Press, 1988.; 2nd ed. NY: Marcel Dekker, 1989

  • By "regime values," I intend to suggest that the normative foundation of ethical standards for public servants in any regime is the values of that regime. In the United States these regime values happen to be constitutional values, but not every regime takes its constitution as seriously as Americans do... By using the word "regime," my intention was to stress the particularistic character of the values that form the basis of public administration ethics. By emphasizing regime rather than constitution, I hope to make this book more interesting to students from other countries who are studying public administration in the United States.
    • (1989, p. ix-x); as cited in: Patrick Overeem, "The Concept of Regime Values Are Revitalization and Regime Change Possible?." The American Review of Public Administration 45.1 (2015): 46-60.
  • The word "regime" is not used in the journalistic sense of the "Carter regime," or the "Reagan regime," and so on. Rather it is simply intended as the best English equivalent of what Aristotle meant by a "polity." More specifically by the American "regime," I mean the fundamental political order established by the Constitution of 1789.
    • (1989, p. 3)
  • For those who distinguish state and society, "regime," as used in this essay, is closer to society than state. Although the distinction of state and society is a philosophical question of the first order, I do not think it makes any difference for the purpose of this book just where one stands on this great issue. Those who, like Aristotle, do not distinguish state and society may perhaps feel more comfortable with the words "regime" or "polity" than those who make this distinction. The latter may prefer the somewhat ambiguous term “society values.” It is important to note, however, that I am not talking exclusively about the values of the "state"— the authoritative and coercive agent of a political society.
    • (1989, p. 90-91, Note 33)
  • The price, then, that the professional study of ethics for bureaucrats exacts from the curriculum is that questions of political philosophy ("Is the regime just?") must yield to less fundamental questions such as "How can I promote the values of the regime?" The method of regime values eschews metaphysics and addresses the students in the existential situation in which it finds them—persons who have taken or are about to take an oath to uphold the values of a particular regime. It admonishes them that taking such an oath presupposes an acceptance of the fundamental justice of the regime but does not require into how the students arrived at the conclusion that the regime is just.
    • (1989, p. 70-71)

Civil servants and their constitutions, 2002[edit]

John Anthony Rohr (2002), Civil servants and their constitutions, University Press of Kansas, 2002.

  • Public administration as an American profession originated in the early twentieth century with urban reformers advocating the application of scientific and business practices to rehabilitate corrupt city governments. That approach transformed governance in the United States but also guaranteed recurrent debate over the proper role of public administrators, who must balance the often contradictory demands of efficiency and politically defined notions of the public good. Currently the business approach holds sway. Legitimated by Al Gore's National Performance Review, the New Public Management movement promotes entrepreneurs over civil servants, performance over process, decentralization over centralization, and flexibility over rules. John Rohr demurs, arguing that the movement goes too far in downplaying the distinctively American challenges arising from the separated powers principle. Consequently, the NPM alienates public management from its natural home -- a nation-state established within a constitutional order.
    • Abstract
  • According to Rohr, "nothing is more fundamental to governance than a constitution; and therefore to stress the constitutional character of administration is to establish the proper role of administration as governance that includes management but transcends it as well."This is not a novel argument for Rohr, who was recognized in 1999 by the Louis Brownlow Committee of the National Academy of Public Administration for his lifetime contributions on the "constitutional underpinnings" of public administration. But this new version of his rule-of-law critique directly addresses the NPM's excesses, framed convincingly as a comparative study of cases found in four countries spanning three centuries. The first half of the book examines the linkages between constitutions and administrations in France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The second half of the book examines American cases...
    • Abstract
  • The analogy between management and engineering has the unwholesome effect of taking management one further step away from governance. Engineering, like science, music, and theology, knows no national boundaries, and this is why scientists, artists, and theologians— often to their credit— make statesmen uneasy. Such men and women operate from a different normative base from those who govern. Despite the salience of the NAFTAs, the WTOs, and the EUs of this world, governing remains overwhelmingly the business of nation-states.
    • p. ix
  • More directly related to the NPM is the impressive current literature criticizing it for its sometimes cavalier treatment of the rule of law, especially its free and easy slogans about eliminating red tape and letting managers manage
    • p. ix
  • In France constitutions come and go, but administrative institutions remain.
    • p. 18

Quotes about John Rohr[edit]

  • In a cool, rational and detached manner, Prophets Without Honor, destroys every possible argument for selective conscientious objection (SCO). The author, John A Rohr, does not think SCO would contribute significantly to the public interest of the United States. He would rather have these men of conscience (SCO's) compare to prophets of old and we, America, likened to Jerusalem who "stoned here prophets."
    • Patricia F. McNeal, "Book review: John A. Rohr: Prophets Without Honor: Policy and the Selective Conscientious Objector. Abingdon Press, 1971." The Review of Politics 35.02 (1973): 258-260.
  • When I was president of the American Society for Public Administration, I grappled with questions of where that field was going, how it could make itself relevant to those who must steer the business of government on a daily basis, to those who must respond to citizens 24/7... Now I find myself asking a similar question, but this time in terms of political science. Happily, I see glimmers of light, giving hope that the field is returning to that which made it relevant in the first place: a search for guidance and truths about what it takes, as first Woodrow Wilson (1887), then Marshall Dimock (1937), and more recently John Rohr (1986) remind us, to "run a constitution."
    • Mary E. Guy, "Ties that bind: The link between public administration and political science." Journal of Politics 65.3 (2003): 641-655; p. 642-3.

External links[edit]