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Are we doing good? : Catholic Social Teaching and the ethics of public policy outcomes in New Zealand : a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy, Massey University, Albany
From the perspective that avoidable social and environmental injustices exist in New Zealand, this research examines the ethics of public policy. It suggests that our society would be more justly sustainable if the ethics of policy outcomes were to supersede political expediency as the dominant influence in government’s decision-making. An Appreciative Inquiry with expert interviewees is applied to the two-part proposition that: (a) a greater focus on ethics and social morality is required for effective policy-making; and (b) the application of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching would enhance the ethical coherence of government policy, programme and service development.
The research has found that the public policy system in New Zealand enables its workers to ‘do well,’ but often prevents them from ‘doing good,’ in policy domains such as housing and employment. Erroneous assumptions by policy actors that their work is morally neutral limit their appreciation of the effects that government decisions have on society and the natural environment. The research suggests that government should insist on ethical analysis of policy proposals and impacts as a pre-requisite for its decisions. Since Catholic Social Teaching is congruent with our accepted standards of social morality, it could helpfully be applied to policy design and implementation in this country. The best way to position CST as a moral signpost for policy-making would be to apply it to specific policies and services.
This project has been oriented from the outset towards applicability in the public policy environment. Accordingly, the research includes three new policy-making frameworks which combine the principles of Catholic Social Teaching with the methodology of Appreciative Inquiry. Use of these analytical frameworks would enable all policy actors to assess the ethics of recommendations and decisions in terms of their impacts on people and the earth.