Democratic Accountability for Public Debt

Prepared for the Annual Conference of the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management of the American Society for Public Administration, Seattle, Washington, October 6-8, 2016

33 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017

See all articles by Jonathan B. Justice

Jonathan B. Justice

University of Delaware, School of Public Policy & Administration

Date Written: January 10, 2017

Abstract

What does it mean for public financial managers to be professionally and democratically accountable in managing public debt? How do they accomplish (or fall short of) accountability? What are the results of their accountability (or lack thereof)? This paper develops an analytic framework for mapping the accountability space within which public financial managers work to reconcile diverse normative expectations as they exercise discretionary judgment and choice in the area of public-debt management specifically. An accountability framework offers the possibility of connecting previous literature's focus on micro-level decision making and social psychology on the one hand, and macro-level normative guidance offered by public-choice theorists and public-finance economists on the other hand, by focusing on the interactions of macro- and meso-level norms and expectations with micro-level decision processes, judgment and choice.

The framework is meant to provide a structure for understanding in empirical settings how state and local government financial managers' professional, democratic, and other accountabilities interact with each other and with other expressed and implied expectations of relevant stakeholders. It is intended to serve as a basis for conducting empirical research to understand how actual debt-management decisions and behavior respond (or fail to respond) to those various norms, and with what results. An additional, normative goal is to contribute to the development of means by which public administrators can understand and manage the conflict between espoused public preferences for thrift and implied and acted-upon preferences for profligacy, by making decisions that accommodate, resolve, or transcend those dilemmas of accountability.

Keywords: Municipal Bonds, Accountability, Public Finance, Public Debt, Professional Ethics

JEL Classification: D73, D84, D92, H74, H83

Suggested Citation

Justice, Jonathan B., Democratic Accountability for Public Debt (January 10, 2017). Prepared for the Annual Conference of the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management of the American Society for Public Administration, Seattle, Washington, October 6-8, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2913198 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2913198

Jonathan B. Justice (Contact Author)

University of Delaware, School of Public Policy & Administration ( email )

Newark, DE 19716
United States

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