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Generational Perspectives on American Public Administration in the Deep South for Law Enforcement Policy and Community Relations at the Local, State and National Levels

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Michael Baker
July 21, 2017

A perspective on law enforcement and policy such as regulations and community relations should examine whether government regulations are considered to do more harm than good; whether the government already controls too much of our daily lives, and even in 2017, whether public administration should focus more on domestic rather than international policy and enforcement. These are three of the questions researched in the deep south prior to the last Presidential elections that might help us to partially understand the generational mood currents flowing and flaring currently in our country beyond partisan aspects. This article is a very brief summary of just a portion of the research in “Generational Perspectives on American Public Administration in the Deep South.”

A diverse cross-section of 132 participants of the population in Alabama, Georgia and Florida were surveyed and interviewed and spanned four generations defined below.


There was almost a 50/50 mix of men and women:


Asian, Black and a mixed populace participated (though a surprising feature was that some Blacks interviewed did not identify predominantly or even exclusively as Black, nor mixed-race, but at last on one occasion as white and another as of the “American” race — not meaning Native American, but a nationalistic identification).


The study had predominately college-educated people;


economic status was varied, and although some had part-time income that below what is considered poverty-level, none are deemed particularly wealthy:

economic status

Millennials results generally disagreed with Traditionalists and Boomers that government regulations do more harm than good, and were generally neutral on the government controlling too much of our lives. However, there was widespread agreement among all generations that public administration should pay more attention to the local, state and national policy and law enforcement than overseas matters. Gen Xers, like the Millennials, were generally neutral on public administration controlling too much of our daily lives. The most revealing but unsurprising perception of Millennials is that public administration is “selective about their actions based on demographics.”

Displaying a concern for stability and order, Boomer comments ranged from, “Control is exercised in terms of laws, regulations, taxes, and fees;” “Adults and parents need to be responsible individuals and raise their children with a good moral conscience;” and “ In law enforcement, the federal government ought to let the local authorities, the state authorities, handle local situations and not weigh in to influence the outcome of the process;” to “But then, there are two sides to everything and there are a lot of advantages to having the kind of government that provides protection, and allows people benefits that they wouldn’t have in other countries.”

Generally feeling strongest that regulations do more harm than good, Traditionalists were the most philosophical: “Demands filter through the public process, produce the output which meets peoples’ demands and needs.” In the same vein, “There’s really not an issue with control, public administration has the responsibility for our daily lives. It doesn’t help one become employed or take care of your family, but does uphold any individual living in the community, making sure [the community] meets the needs of the citizens.”

The third issue was whether or not “American government should pay more attention to domestic than overseas problems.” Three of the four generations indicated the strongest agreement of any question in the research. Not really opposing but contemplative, Traditionalist commented, “Overseas problems will migrate to the US quietly if ignored,” and public administration “needs to do more, both with efficiency and with definite goals.” And further, “We are living now in an age of international globalization, international interconnection, so there is no reason why we cannot expect the local government to get involved overseas and invite investment. For example, the Hyundai group invites direct foreign investment; Hyundai [of Montgomery, Alabama] maybe was even also invited at the county level, … But the state of Alabama is now extensively involved in globalization. There used to be in America a parochial narrow view, but now that view extends to the entire world, the role of the state and local level is a very important part of the American [economic] system.”

Perhaps Traditionalist comments express the research conclusions best. “Things are more difficult now, leadership and cooperation in public administration helps the community to survive within its own environment and that’s basically what it’s all about. Public administration is not to make a profit, but to make sure the city, state and nation is managed well. One example is safety; today every school has a policeman – which is a different environment with the policeman sitting sometimes in the same office as the principal.” And, “Congress provides the regulations for public administration. Based on what is going on currently, pubic administration is not really as effective as it used to be. Whether for housing or education policy, regulatory policy should be individualized, but overall regulations are less effective than they used to be. The trust the American people place on Congress seems less confident than it was decades ago, so maybe regulations follow suit.”

Author: W.D. Michael Baker, Ed., Retired Federal Civil Servant & Adjunct University Professor.

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