Books by Peter Plastrik

Released: Feb. 1, 1997

An upbeat but unpersuasive advertisement for solving the problems of government through public management reform. Osborne, coauthor of the influential Reinventing Government (1992) and Plastrik (a political journalist and operative in Michigan) promote an entrepreneurial model of government in which agencies offer services, citizens are customers, and the rewards and perils of a marketlike environment improve the performance of traditionally inflexible bureaucrats. Implementation is to occur through five common-sense strategies: Clarify purposes (core), create incentives for employee performance (consequences), obtain feedback from service recipients (customer), empower people to do what is needed (control), and replace old habits with new commitments (culture). The result is a theory that would tempt a cynic to conclude that creating jargon is the key to reinventing government, to wit: As ``reinventors . . . uncoupled functions, they used the flexible performance framework metatool to incorporate the consequences and control strategies into their plan.'' The heart of the volume, however, beats in the numerous examples that introduce some substance into the discussion, and from Indianapolis city government to Minnesota schools, the US Forest Service, and national government in New Zealand, the authors provide real cause for optimism. Unfortunately, they also provide reasons to be skeptical. First, it is strange that they find no disadvantages to reinvention. In a world where trade-offs are more common than miracles, this raises a suspicion that we are not getting the whole story. Second, there is a troubling tendency to measure success in terms of management goals rather than policy outcomes. In Minnesota, for example, the criterion for applauding a voluntary school choice program is proliferation across school districts, not students receiving an improved education. There will be reason to cheer if transforming bureaucrats into entrepreneurs improves the results of public policy, but this conclusion depends on producing actual benefits to citizens, not enthusiastic cheerleading from management mavens. (Author tour) Read full book review >