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Keeping public officials accountable through dialogue: resolving the accountability paradox

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Authors
Roberts, Nancy C.
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Date of Issue
2002-11
Date
November/December 2002
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Abstract
Type
Article
Description
How can public officials be held accountable, and yet avoid the paradoxes and pathologies of the current mechanisms of accountability? The answer, claims Harmon (1995), is dialogue. But what exactly is dialogue, and how is it created? More importantly, how can dialogue ensure acountability. To address these questions, I begin with a brief description of dialogue and its basic features, distinguishing it from other forms of communication. An example illustrates how dialogue occurs in actual practice. Not only does dialogue demonstrate the intelligent management of contradictory motives and forces, it also supports Harmon's claim that it can resolve the accountability paradox and avoid the atrophy of personal responsibility and political authority. I suggest the dialogue's advantage outweighs its cost as a mechanism of accountability under a particular set of conditions: when public officials confront "wicked problems" that defy defnition and solution, and when traditional problem solving methods have failed, thus preventing any one group from imposing it definition of the problem or its solutions on others.
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Graduate School of Business & Public Policy (GSBPP)
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Naval Postgraduate School (U.S.)
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Citation
N.C. Roberts, "Keeping public official accountable through dialogue; resolving the accountability paradox," Public Administration Review, v.62, no.6, (November/December 2002) pp. 658-669.
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This publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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