AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Public administration scholars separate over whether the public bureaucracy of the democratic polity ought to be the starting point of public administration scholarship. Dwight Waldo (1948). John J. Kirlin (1996), and Vincent Ostrom (1997) among others, have argued that the democratic polity needs preference and that focusing predominantly on improving efficiency of administrative processes can in fact harm the very polity that such improvements are supposed to help. Procedural due process, substantive rights, equity. and protection of minority rights as well as equal opportunity arid equality among citizens are values that have precedence over efficiency. They argue, and I agree, that a particular public bureaucracy or administrative structure is embedded within a particular political socioeconomic system. If the result desired is an inclusive, democratic polity, then these organizations ought to be grounded in theories, assumptions, and understandings of reality that advance knowledge of, and give direction toward, attaining such a polity.
Grounded in rational choice and public choice and containing elements of Total Quality Management (TQM), the New Public Management (NPM) seeks to offer more efficient mechanisms for delivering goods and services and for raising governmental performance levels. Such a goal would appear to be highly commendable and desired by all citizens. As Parsons, Merrick, and Watson (1996, 26) in their study of Deep South mayors note, "The social contract, in large part, is about the equitable distribution of city resources." The Civil Rights Movement concerned equal services in terms of sewers, paved roads, and street lights as well as equality in voting, jobs, and education.
The purpose of this article is to examine the implications of the new public management movement for representative bureaucracies and the development of an inclusive democratic polity. In examining these matters, I will first define an inclusive democratic polity and examine the extent to which the theory and assumptions that undergird the New Public Management are likely to provide guidance to those implementing it should they wish to promote an inclusive democratic polity. Since the NPM is largely derived from rational choice and public choice theories, I will focus primarily on them.
However, I will also note briefly how TQM has modified these theories. After assessing these theoretical issues, I will then discuss the meaning and rationale for a representative bureaucracy. Once these basic concepts are articulated, I will suggest how a representative bureaucracy might assist in resolving the problems facing the NPM as the result of trying to apply private sector and market concepts to the public sector.
Advancement of an Inclusive Democratic Polity
Stated most simply, an inclusive democratic polity is one that provides all its adult, mentally competent citizens with full rights, duties, and responsibilities and a sense of belonging as an equal partner entitled to the benefits and burdens society offers. It is a political entity that consciously strives for human development, dignity, liberty with responsibility, and justice for all. It is an open society grounded in action research and evolutionary learning in which relationships and dynamic contexts matter as well as individuals and groups. In the United States this society needs to work within the framework of the U.S. Constitution and a republican form of government. It is a society in which the people share, as Alexis de Tocqueville, Vincent Ostrom, and Harold Lasswell have suggested, a body of common knowledge grounded in a shared community of understanding with a degree of trust in each other and in the political system, of which the government is an important but not the total part. There is also basic clarity about the place: its material conditions, technological levels, and the nature of national goals. Rules and rule-ordered relationships are public and accessible to all citizens.
A prerequisite for the New Public Management to be able to promote such a polity is that its assumptions and findings about human beings reflect sociopolitical reality. By the year 2000 about one-fourth of the U.S. population will consist of racial and ethnic minorities. At the minimum, the governance structure needs to recognize the diversity of people. The question is, to what extent does the New Public Management do this?
Compatibility of Undergirding Theory with Empirical Reality
In the 20th century in the United States full political rights have been expanded dramatically beyond white, European, propertied males. The citizenry now includes former slaves (mostly African-Americans), women, Native Americans, and people from almost every part of the globe. Homogeneity among U.S. citizens with full rights of participation has, to put it bluntly, disappeared. So also has the shared acceptance of white-male, universal norms. Assimilation to white, European, male standards of citizenship and conformist notions of how to behave or think "rationally' as a consumer or client of government goods and services have dearly been challenged by the Women's Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and others. How does the New Public Management address these changes and the need for an inclusive democratic polity?
The New Public Management rests largely on rational and public choice assumptions as well as private sector and market assumptions, each of which in turn rests on methodological individualism and an instrumental conception of individual rationality. People are thought to "maximize their expected utilities in formally predictable ways" (Green and Shapiro, 1994, 17). The psychological foundations to the supporting theories are limited essentially to self-interest, transactional and exchange theories. Assuming that citizens are the same as customers/consumers, the New Public Management most typically argues that individuals receiving some governmental good or service are attempting to maximize their utility (often defined as satisfaction) with regard to the good or service, and that contractors acting in a competitive market and seeking to maximize their profits, will perform better, i.e., more efficiently, than if a government bureaucracy provides the good or service directly.
Are such assumptions necessarily problematic for democratic governance? Only if they are incorrect, or gravely incomplete. In my opinion this is clearly the case for narrow versions of rational choice theory. Critics have noted the lack of empirical evidence to support the universality of these versions (Green and …