I was thinking back on a lecture in grad school this morning and wanted to briefly share part of an article and pose the question, should government be run like a business? The New Public Service: Serving Rather than Steering, is an article by Robert Denhardt and Janet Denhardt that I read during graduate school. The article was written in response to the concept of New Public Management, or the theory that government should be run like a business. Commonly, New Public Management refers to public servants are as entreprenuers, citizens as customers and the idea of self promotion/advancement is a strong motivating factor. Efficiency and performance are emphasized, and the values of a business become those of the government. During grad school, this was one of the more heated debates we had among classmates. I’ve never been in a classroom with a debate that was handled so well by a professor. He was collected, neutral and made you think regardless of your beliefs. In any event, it was a fun exercise for a public administration student.
In the spirt of transparency, I fell into the government should not be run like a business camp. I have nothing against business or private sector, but I do think they way we approach the client – customer relationship is inherently different than government – citizen. There are certainly lessons the private sector can learn from the public sector and public sector from private sector. Part of the challenge I think we face is that we need to mend the relationships between public and private sector. We need to remove the stigmas of each sector and work to collectively address the problems. We also need to move away from a model that promotes self interest and start a dialogue that focus on shared values and interests.
The seven points below articulate New Public Service, Public Managers Should:
1. Serve, rather than steer
2. The public interest is the aim, not the by-product.
3. Think strategically, act democratically.
4. Serve citizens, not customers.
5. Accountability isn’t simple.
6. Value people, not just productivity.
7. Value citizenship and public service above entrepreneurship.
Denhardt, R. B. and Denhardt, J. V. (2000), The New Public Service: Serving Rather than Steering. Public Administration Review, 60: 549–559.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, should government be run like a business?