Skip to main content

PPG 2011: Ethics and the Public Interest

Go Search
New Atlas
Atlas, A-Z
Atlas Maps
MPP/MPA Programs
Core Topics
Illustrative Courses
Topic Encyclopedia
Concept Dictionary
Career Tips
Best Practices Project


University of Toronto - School of Public Policy and Governance

PPG-2011: Ethics and the Public Interest


Ethics and The Public Interest provides a range of frameworks, drawn from a variety of cultural perspectives, for analyzing and managing the complex ethical dilemmas that public officials confront. It is a course in politically-informed moral reasoning.

“Politically-informed” means that this is not a course in pure moral theory. The political realities that policy-makers face, the constraints imposed by interests, resources and power, and the possibilities afforded by coalitions, compromise and bargaining, will be very much a part of the discussion.

But ultimately democratic public officials have to analyze, argue for, and justify their positions in moral language. Participants in democratic debates never say “We support policy X because it’s in our interest” – at least not if they hope to persuade others and command their respect. Instead, whether their motivations are self-interested or altruistic, officials and citizens have to show that their preferred X advances some plausible conception of the broader public interest. And that requires that they be able to reason morally, and to explore the moral strengths and weaknesses of various alternatives before them. The analytical and case material we will discuss is meant to enable the formulation of well-reasoned, theoretically and empirically-based viewpoints on difficult and controversial public-policy and public management issues.

The course will focus on what for the vast majority of people would be genuine moral dilemmas: issues about which most of us will be internally conflicted, where each of the competing sides asserts well-founded ethical claims. But more than this, the course has a global component. Not only will many of the topics pose dilemmas for any one ethical system, they will also pose different kinds of dilemmas for different ethical systems, which will view them through diverse moral lenses, weighing the costs and benefits in culturally distinctive ways. Because many of the most compelling issues that public officials face transcend borders and cultures, the course will develop an understanding of differing moral systems and the ability to navigate between them.

The course is divided into two parts. The first seven classes deal with moral challenges of public management that crop up across policy domains. The final six classes look more closely at ethical issues that arise in specific topical policy areas.

Faculty: Andrew Stark (Fall 2012)

Source: At  

Teaching Topics Addressed in this Course, Organized by Public Management Subject

 Ethics and Accountability

  Compromise and Disagreement
  Conflict of Interest
  Free Speech and Religion ("Religion in the Public Sphere")
  Historical Injustice and Global Justice
  Intellectual Property
  Lying, Deception, Privacy and Transparency
  Markets and Regulation
  Means and Ends: The Problem of Dirty Hands
  Responsibility and Accountability

 Social and Political Context

There are currently no favorite links to display.

 Management Sciences for Public Management

  Compromise and Disagreement

Commentary by the Atlas Editors:

Page created by: Ben Eisen and Matthew Seddon, last updated 28 April 2013. The content presented on this page, except in the Commentary, is drawn directly from the source(s) cited above, and consists of direct quotations or close paraphrases.


PPG2011H Syllabus - Fall 2012_Stark.pdfPPG2011H Syllabus - Fall 2012_Stark

Important Notices
© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance