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Strategies for GoverningReinventing Public Administration for a Dangerous Century$
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Alasdair Roberts

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501714405

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501714405.001.0001

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Efficiency or Extravagance

Efficiency or Extravagance

(p.93) Chapter 14 Efficiency or Extravagance
Strategies for Governing

Alasdair Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter discusses the first dilemma in the making of governance strategies, which is the choice between efficiency and extravagance in the design of institutions and policies. For the past forty years, research and practice in public administration have focused on providing high-quality services at the lowest possible cost. Indeed, efficiency has been the main concern of the public management movement that emerged in the 1970s and now dominates the field of public administration in the West. The goal is to make government “work better and cost less” and to increase “value for money.” In this view, organizations are healthy if they are lean and performance focused. Wastefulness and extravagance are regarded as cardinal sins. However, the choice between efficiency and extravagance is not so clear. Sometimes it makes sense to apply more resources to a task than is strictly necessary to accomplish it. For example, this is often true when fighting wars.

Keywords:   governance strategies, efficiency, extravagance, institutional design, public administration, public management, wars

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