Ethics are the guidebook of societal conduct. They deal with the individual actions and behaviour that can be termed acceptable and unacceptable in the society at that particular time.
Thus, ethics seek to promote “virtuous” qualities in human life; qualities that help keep peace and harmony in the society, as well as lead to prosperity and progress of the society (and thus the individuals in it) at large.
Such qualities are compassion – towards all living beings, honesty – in speech and conduct, respect – for others, especially elders, integrity, rational outlook – to make appropriate decisions, a sense of fairness and of justice – social, economic and political, and courage – to withstand adversity.
Ethics are all the more important in public administration as public administration is a task having large-scale public interaction with people from all walks of life and all strata of the society.
- The conduct of public servants both reflects the conduct of the society as well as reinforces it.
- Ethical conduct of the administration results in better public service delivery since it will be based on fairness and equity and be performed with honesty and integrity.
- Ethical values in public administration repose faith in the system and lead to better welfare outcomes as well as an improvement in the overall well-being of the society.
Ethics thus form the foundation for a stable society. However it must be kept in mind that a stable society may not always be egalitarian, and therefore the onus is on the people to identify such customs and practices that make the society unfair, and steps must be taken to correct them. Only then will ethics prove to be useful in maintaining harmony in the society.