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

By Geoffrey Rabinowitz
January 7, 2019

No longer can we in the public administration field just focus on just policy development, research and educating the next generation of practitioners. The world in which we currently live is quickly changing; academics, science and facts are mocked and so it is once again time for public administrators to lead the change that is desperately needed.

There is a resurgence of Nationalism. We have witnessed changing paradigms for long-term economic growth. The American ideal written on the Statue of Liberty (originally penned in Emma Lazarus’ sonnet New Colossus) “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is passé. This is not only true for immigration policies but also just with the phrase “breathe free.” While somewhat out of context, the ability of immigrants and citizens alike to freely breath clean air is in more jeopardy now than it has been in generations. A report by the World Health Organization (2018) stated that over 90 percent of people in the world are breathing air that is dangerous to human health. Add to this a regression of positive climate change actions and you have a recipe for the continued degradation of many of the core societal aspects that once allowed America to proudly think of itself as the righteous hegemon that was blazing the way for the world.

We are now far removed from the punctuated equilibrium that was once the guiding light of a quickly changing and consciously changing America; a time that saw the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Civil Rights Act, and many other changes that advanced not only America but set a tone and a goal for the world. We are now a leading voice to ignore science, to ignore facts, to ignore data, to look at academia with mounting distrust and to act on impulse, on conjecture and selfish desire. 

Allow me to paint a hypothetical picture of the next hundred years or so. The climate continues to adversely change resulting in extremes that are greater in both frequency and magnitude. This results in increasing the challenge to keep the earth inhabitable and to produce ample food and clean water. Our ever-increasing population will place further strain on resources. Sanitary conditions will degrade, thus increasing the risk for new or resurgent disease to cause pandemics. Nationalistic economies in developed countries with tough immigration laws will shrink because one cannot have an expanding economy with a near stagnant population and zero-sum economic and trade practices. National debts are rising because governments are placating to their constituents that they can still receive all of the services they want and pay less in taxes all the while infrastructure is crumbling.

All of this is occurring while technological advances in computers and artificial intelligence (AI) are quickly moving forward. Bastardizing Moore’s Law, the speed and advancement of AI is nearly doubling every 24 months. As discussed by Stephen Hawking in Brief Answers to the Big Questions (2018), AI will eventually advance to a level where it takes over its own advancement and at that point, humans may well be in trouble. Let us put this all into a singularity: in the next hundred years economies are likely going to recess, natural disasters will be more severe, developing countries will see the largest population explosion without adequate increases in infrastructure, diseases will increase and AI will be the most intelligent entity on the planet. To parallel the United State’s Endangered Species Act (passed as part of the punctuated equilibrium) is this the time to officially list humans as endangered? Probably not. Is it time to list humans as threatened? Perhaps it is.   

This is where the call to action comes in. It is not only time but it is our responsibility as public administrators to help provide the expert guidance and knowledge to change the current direction of society. Government (both political and administrative) must provide the leadership for this to occur. If politicians are unable to do so, then the burden of this falls on us, the administrative state. Simply doing research and writing articles on our findings are not enough. We must force the discussion while becoming grossly unpopular in many circles, we must educate the ignorant and must, I repeat must, bring society back to making decisions and policies on sound science and data, and move far away from the current level of myopic narcissism. We must once again demand that active and vibrant discourse is a good thing and to stop being offended by, well, everything. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, we must be the change that we want to see in the world, and we must do so NOW!!!        

Author: Mr. Rabinowitz is currently working on his dissertation for his Doctorate in Public Administration from Valdosta State University.  He has over 15 years experience working for multiple federal, state and local agencies in environmental protection and public health capacities.  Geoff received his MS in Executive Management from the Florida State University and received a BS in Marine Biology and a BS in Ecology from the Florida Institute of Technology.  Please contact him at [email protected]

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