The United Kingdom was a “vanguard state” for experimentation with administrative reforms that came to be known as the New Public Management, or NPM. After three decades, what results has NPM produced in the UK? Christopher Hood and Ruth Dixon address that question in a commentary for Governance. Complaints about maladministration and judicial challenges to government action increased markedly, Hood and Dixon say, while administrative costs “rose substantially” in real terms. On the other hand, trust in government did not collapse, as many critics of NPM feared, and administrative costs did take up a smaller share of total public spending. The overall conclusion? “Government worked a bit worse and cost a bit more.” Free access to the commentary.
Related reading: In a commentary for Governance in July 2014, Jonathan Boston and Chris Eichbaum assessed thirty years of neoliberal reform in New Zealand, another “vanguard state” for NPM. Read their commentary.
Last October, Governance published a special issue on state-building in areas of limited statehood. In their contribution, Melissa Lee, Gregor Walter-Drop, and John Wiesel questioned conventional wisdom that the state plays a central role in explaining variation in provision of essential services. Examining data from more than 150 countries, they found “remarkably little evidence of a consistent relationship between statehood and service delivery.” Read the article.
In a note on Governance Early View, B. Guy Peters and Jon Pierre commend the article for tackling a “fundamental research question in political science” but argue that the variables used in the study are “inadequate measures of the contemporary state and that the conclusions drawn in this article are therefore misleading.” Peters and Pierre provide a brief overview of difficulties in measuring the state and its activities. Free access to their response to the article.
Melissa Lee and Gregor Walter-Drop defend their approach to the measurement of statehood. This approach “avoids a developed country bias.” Moreover, “Our goal was to challenge the bias of conventional governance research that conflates statehood and service delivery.” The evidence suggests that the “core functions of the state” may not be as necessary for service provision as commonly assumed. Free access to their reply.
Matthew Flinders of the University of Sheffield also noted the discipline’s difficulties in a January 2014 commentary. “Political science has generally failed to fulfill its broader social responsibilities . . . It is — at least in some limited ways — to blame for ‘why we hate politics.'” Read the commentary.
A call for nominations for the 2015 Levine Prize has now been made. Details about the Prize, the 2015 call for nominations, and previous winners of the prize, are available on this page.
VHB, the German Association of Management Scholars, has selected Governance as one of three journals to receive its top ranking for quality in 2015. See the rankings.
In the current issue of Governance, Jane Gingrich examines a paradox. A large scholarly literature says that change is difficult in the public sector. But the public sector has in fact changed substantially over the last two decades. Better theory is needed to explain when and how institutional change happens. Gringrich identifies three different types of costs to change, and explains how different combinations of these costs can lead to different patterns of policy change. Gingrich uses British and American experience in healthcare and welfare reform to illustrate her argument. Free access to the article.