I sometimes get frustrated with Krugman’s approach to his NYT column because he seems (at times) to depend more readily on his visceral inclinations than marshaling forth objective evidence that supports his argument. The fact is that most of the contentions he makes can be justified in such terms, and he has a Nobel in Economics for providing insights through objective analysis derived from the scientific method and a deep appreciation for historical context. That’s why columns like this are so frustrating. Krugman’s larger point about the problems of privatization is spot on, but the dependence on ideological frames automatically inhibits the ability to have a genuine debate about the economic and moral consequences of privatizing public goods.
From Pew Center on the States:
“Brewer made civil service changes her top priority in the 2012 legislative session, and she succeeded in getting them enacted. The changes will gradually transition the state away from a traditional civil service structure towards an “at will” system that mirrors private sector companies. Agency managers will have flexibility to hire and fire employees as they choose, and reward star employees with bonuses and pay increases without legislative approval.”
Note: Shifts away from traditional merit system structures of government bureaucracy to at-will employment have gained traction across traditionally conservative states since the 1990s. Georgia was the first state to move to a predominantly “at-will” model. The fears of such shifts are the politicization of human resource and line management processes–including patronage appointments, arbitrary firings or disciplinary actions, and subverting legislative intent to executive prerogative. Of course, legitimate arguments for the institution of at-will employment include many of the “bureaupathologies” that emerge through merit systems, such as trained incapacity, goal displacement, and intransigence to political authority. Time will tell whether Brewer’s changes will result in the former or cure the latter. But given her record of extreme partisanship, the likelihood of a Jacksonian spoils system emerging seems more likely.
We are sorry to see the passing of the 2009 Nobel winner, Dr. Elinor Ostrom. Lin made critical contributions to the fields of economics, political science, and public administration. Her work and her perspective rejected the stove-piped nature of our disciplines, and we are all better for it. Today, take some time to reorient yourself with Dr. Ostrom’s seminal work.
Our sympathies to her colleagues, friends, and family.
Here are some recent publications in academic journals that we are reading:
“Using Employee Empowerment to Encourage Innovative Behavior in the Public Sector,” by Sergio Fernandez and Tima Moldogaziev; J Public Adm Res Theory, first published online May 23, 2012 doi:10.1093/jopart/mus008
“Oversight as Constraint or Catalyst? Explaining Agency Influence on State Policy Decision Making,” by Christine Kelleher Palus and Susan Webb Yackee; American Review of Public Administration, first published on May 23, 2012 doi:10.1177/0275074012443730
“Public Managers in the Policy Process: More Evidence on the Missing Variable?” by Michael Howlett and Richard M. Walker; Policy Studies Journal 40, no. 2 (2012): 211-33.
“Their Views Matter: Frontline Regulators’ Perceptions of the Regulated Community in Ohio,” by Michelle C. Pautz; Policy Studies Journal 40, no. 2 (2012): 302-23. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-0072.2012.00454.x/abstract)
“Does Involvement in Performance Management Routines Encourage Performance Information Use? Evaluating GPRA and PART,” by Donald P. Moynihan and Stéphane Lavertu. Public Administration Review (2012):
“Preferences for Careers in Public Work: Examining the Government-Nonprofit Divide Among Undergraduates Through Public Service Motivation,” by Roger P. Rose; American Review of Public Administration published 10 May 2012, doi: 10.1177/0275074012444900.