© 2016

The Political Ethics of Public Service


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xix
  2. Introduction

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Vera Vogelsang-Coombs
      Pages 13-38
  3. The Ethical Inquiry of Career Public Servants: Balancing Public and Private Morality in Governing Methods

  4. Great Political Ideas and American Constitutionalism: Balancing Liberty and Equality in Government

  5. Political Institutions and Democratic Public Service: Balancing Liberty and Authority in Bureaucratic Governance

  6. Conclusion

  7. Back Matter
    Pages 359-398

About this book


This book provides a defense of democratic politics in American public service and offers the political ethics of public service as a realistic and optimistic alternative to the cynical American view toward politics and public service. The author’s alternative helps career public servants regain public trust by exercising constitutionally centered moral and political leadership that balances the regime values of liberty and equality in governing American society while contributing to the ethical progress of the nation. She identifies three distinct leadership styles of political ethics, enabling career public servants to reconcile their personal loyalties, morality, and consciences with the public and private morality of American society and their constitutional obligations to secure the democratic freedoms of Americans. Recognizing career public servants’ moral and institutional struggles, the book proposes a rigorous leadership development program to acclimate individuals to workplace psychological, moral, and political challenges. The view offered here is that career public servants must be a part of, rather than isolated from, American politics to be effective on the job.


political ethics public service US Constitution administrative ethics applied ethics US Politics John Rohr Civil Rights Movement democracy public sector leadership public administration federalism

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Cleveland State UniversityBeachwoodUSA

About the authors

Vera Vogelsang-Coombs is Associate Professor and Voinovich Fellow in the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University (CSU).  Previously, she was CSU’s College of Graduate Studies Dean, the Minnesota State Training Manager, and Hamline University’s MAPA Program director.  Her publications focus on city council and mayoral leadership, public service ethics, constitutional governance, and public leadership development.

Bibliographic information


The Political Ethics of Public Service blends constitutional principles and public service in a new and compelling manner by applying the traditional understanding of rights and values to current issues of public service ethics. Vogelsang-Coombs is insightful and creative in her approach to ethics for public administrators, elected officials, and students.”
Larry Bakken, Distinguished Professor, Mitchell/Hamline School of Law, former mayor and president of the Minnesota League of Cities, and National League of Cities board member.


The Political Ethics of Public Service takes us to the next level in internalizing and operationalizing constitutional rights and values. A major achievement, for sure!”

David H. Rosenbloom, Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, American University (Washington, D.C.)


“A fresh, practical alternative to the usual "ethics moment" approach. Vogelsang-Coombs recognizes the impossibility of purging public administration of its political dimensions. She provides incisive analysis and empathetic guidance to career public servants facing moral dilemmas. The Political Ethics of Public Service is the book administrative ethics courses have long needed.”

Camilla Stivers, author of Governance in Dark Times: Practical Philosophy for Public Service


The Political Ethics of Public Service brings constitutional history and law to life. The book clearly and vividly illustrates the Constitution's ongoing relevance to career public administrators. Professionals and students alike will benefit from the numerous insights into constitutional history and law.”

Joseph Mead, Assistant Professor, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University­­