Mark Kleiman deserves commendations for including a chapter in “When Brute Force Fails” on what could go wrong if some of his ideas were implemented. Among the potential problems listed is that “there are not very good mechanisms for adding resources to an agency to allow it to do something that is not its central mission”. This gives the footnote “Mark H. Moore of Harvard University’s Kennedy School has identified this as a central difference between public and private management: since sales generate revenue, private-sector managers are usually happy to have more users of their products and services, even using them in ways the managers never imagined. To most public managers, people using services constitute “workload” that has to be accommodated within a fixed budget, and there is always concern that a program is being “abused” if it is used in an unexpected way: for example, if working parents use the public library as informal after-school care for their children (Moore 1995, ch1).”
This sounds a lot like (the neoconservative version of Kleiman) James Q. Wilson’s argument in “Bureaucracy” about the founding mission of governmental agencies. Except in there the attempt to make the Social Security Administration police for “abuse” screwed them up as it conflicted with the mission they had long competently done of delivering services to their caseloads. I pointed out earlier that Wilson explicitly rejects the public choice economics theory of bureaucratic imperialism, but he doesn’t think agencies avoid taking on work within their core mission either, a point which Marginal Revolution reader Jacob corroborates. Do they try to maximize caseloads within their core mission? More research is needed.

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