Lester M. Salamon, (ed.) The Tools of Government: A guide to the new governance (2002).

Key point: takes up the question of precisely what governmental tools are most appropriate to tackle public problems. Demonstrates empirically that there is no longer (if there ever was) any such thing as the bureaucracy staffed by stereotypical civil servants spending budgeted funds to deliver public services directly to citizens. The operating reality of modern government – the new governance – is that there is instead a dense mosaic of policy tools, many of them placing public agencies in complex, interdependent relations with a host of third-party partners. As such, researchers should shift the unit of analysis from programmes and agencies to tools of action and move the focus of administration from hierarchy to network: from public-versus-private to public-plus private, from command and control to negotiation and persuasion, from management skills to enablement skills.

 

Method: 15 cases studies (14 chapters) that follow a standard triptych, including: the current codified knowledge about each took, the design knowledge that matches tool to need, and the operating mechanics associated with best practice.

 

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Notes:

 

*each tool of public action contains several components:

**a variety of activities, including cash disbursement, incentives, and protections (e.g. insurance) in addition to goods or service production as the work unit.

**a diverse array of delivery vehicles including regulations, contracts, loans, grants, consumer subsidies, tax systems, and insurance policies as well as direct retain.

**a delivery system that includes such third parties as banks, hospitals, social service agencies, industrial corporations, and universities, some of which are deliberately created and sponsored by government.

**a set of rules that define the relationships among the activities, vehicles, and delivery system elements.

*each tool presents a bundle of performance characteristics of which four attributes are critical:

**coerciveness: the forcible restriction of individual or group behaviour.

**directness: the extent to which resources are channelled through multiple entities before service production or provision occurs.

**automaticity: the extent to which a tool uses existing mechanisms and incentives.

**visibility: the extent to which operations are exposed in the normal public budgeting and policy review process.

 

US Politics Stuff:

*the US since the 1960s has embraced tools of public action that are the most difficult to manage and the hardest to keep focused on their public objectives.

*Salamon suggests that the nation is caught in a vicious downward spiral in which public pessimism about government performance leads to rejection of the instruments of direct public action in favour of highly complex instrumental arrangements.

*indirect tools avoid obvious enlargement of the public sector and thus win political support, but they vastly complicate the job of public management, risking a subversion of public purposes and feeding a self-fulfilling prophecy that government cannot perform.

*the United States has developed instruments of economic regulation (chapter 4) and contracting (chapter 9) for more than 200 years in a historical sequence whereby private sector institutions developed in advance of public regulation and state-owned enterprises. During the national mobilizations of the Great Depression and WWII, however, new tools of direct government intervention (chapter 2) were created that included government corporations (chapter 3) and direct loans (chapter 12) as well as new federal services and agencies. During the 1950s and 1960s, the nation placed (chapter 9) universities and industry under contract to rescue a failing space program. Moreover, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s the federal government used categorical grants (chapter 11) to bribe local government and, ultimately,t he states in the 1970s to tackle the problems of poverty, health, housing, public education, and infrastructure development.

*Slow productivity growth of the 1970s presented policymakers with a new challenge: the problem-solving agenda was growing, but the fiscal resources with which to deal directly with public problems were not keeping pace. New instruments were created, including social regulation (chapter 5) through the use of mandates and new regulatory agencies-such as, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Traffic Safety Administration, and the Occupation Safety and Health Administration-were promulgated from the 1970s until the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995. Even this was not enough. Over the last three decades, the nation has turned to government corporations and government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) as instruments of pension benefit guarantee, infrastructure, and economic development and to pump capital into mortgage markets and student loans (chapter 3). Other instruments were refined, including: government insurance (chapter 6) for pensions, bank deposits, crop disasters, and floods; loan guarantees (chapter 12) as a platform for providing credit to students, farmers, importers and exporters, home owners, small business, rural development agencies, and international assistance agencies; tax expenditures (chapter 13) targeting commerce and housing, health, income security, and general fiscal assistance; and vouchers (chapter 14) for nutrition, child care, rental housing, and post-secondary education.

*the new governance story for the US is perhaps best described as an experimental process by an ambitious public seeking solutions to problems.