effectiveness. Second, goal conflict in school districts is detrimental to organizational performance

effectiveness. Second, goal conflict in school districts is detrimental to organizational performance. It is apparent that a lack of representation of Latinos, for example, in the school board and among teachers, negatively impacts Latino student achievement over time.

Furthermore, there is an implicit normative argument in this analysis. That resulting argument is simple: there is great import and benefit to having a representative

Table 3 The effects of goal con- flict on Latino student performance

*p<.05; **p<.01; one-tailed test Texas Education Agency, 1995–2002

Latino TAAS pass rates

OLS, (Huber-White Standard Errors)

Goal conflict

School board/teacher goal conflict −.017* – (.010)

Teacher/population goal conflict −.068** – (.010)

School board/population goal conflict −.017** – (.007)

Overall goal conflict – −.032** (.005)

Controls

Lagged Latino pass rate .447** .448**

(.013) (.013)

Anglo pass rate .488** .481**

(.020) (.020)

Percentage Latino students −.051** −.055* (.009) (.009)

Percentage black students −.081** −.082** (.012) (.012)

Percentage low income students .048** .048**

(.011) (.011)

Teacher experience −.146** −.161** (.062) (.062)

Non-certified teachers −.011 −.010 (.028) (.028)

Teacher salary .569** .592**

(.045) (.044)

Instructional expenditures per pupil .024** .025**

(.006) (.006)

Constant −17.281** −17.548** (1.582) (1.581)

N 7159 7159

R2 .67 .67

F 1211.97 1438.69

The Consequences of Conflict 281

bureaucracy. Using one type of bureaucratic institution, this analysis finds that the lack thereof has significant effects on a portion of the public being served. This result is generalizable to other agencies in that a lack of representation in other types of bureau- cracies might also have detrimental effects for other constituencies. In cases where a representative bureaucracy currently does not exist, bureaucrats must still make efforts to consider the needs of all groups represented in their constituencies. In other words, an entirely Anglo faculty in a district populated with Latino students should make every effort to consider the differential effects of certain education policies, for example, on Latino students despite a lack of Latino teachers on the faculty. Admittedly, an ideal situation would permit all individuals to be sensitized to the needs of all groups alike, regardless of racial or ethnic background, but this is a utopian ideal. It is not illogical or impossible; however, that the public require bureaucrats to take steps toward the realiza- tion that the interests of all groups are of critical importance for bureaucratic effectiveness.

This research has some limitations. Future research on this topic would first include more rigorous measures of bureaucratic values and preferences. The current study used racial indicators as proxies of values and preferences. This is problematic in that the race of a bureaucrat does not automatically denote his or her value system. Thus, more accurate measures would capture personal policy preferences or opinions, rather than draw conclusions based on race or ethnicity. Such indicators would allow for the capturing of variation across and within racial groups.

Second, it would be useful to apply this proposed framework to African Americans. The same research questions should be examined for this group in that their represen- tation on school boards has increased over time, yet there remains puzzling questions surrounding African American student performance and educational attainment.

Third, it would be advantageous to evaluate the potentiality of coalition effects among minority groups in times of conflict. In other words, do African Americans and Latinos ever represent each other when specific racial group representatives are unattainable? If this is true, what happens to influence in conflicting, yet coalition- bearing, conditions? The current analysis is the first step in a long line of inquiry regarding the role of goal conflict in public administration. Incorporating any of the aforementioned suggestions as well as the empirical testing of additional performance indicators would prove beneficial.

In sum, this analysis demonstrates that goal conflict is detrimental to the constit- uency being served. A lack of value or preference congruence has the potential to shift the pendulum of influence from one entity to another. Further empirical research is needed to determine exactly what this potential shift means for the reconciliation of bureaucracy with democracy in the study of public administration.

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Erin K. Melton is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of Connecticut. Her research considers the implications of race in the management and performance of public organizations.

284 E.K. Melton

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  • The Consequences of Conflict: An Evaluation of Racial Disparity and Organizational Performance
    • Abstract
    • Introduction
    • Literature Review
      • Agency Theory
      • Political Control
      • “The Inner Check”
    • Theoretical Argument
      • Representative Bureaucracy
      • The Case for School Districts
      • Goal Conflict
    • Data, Measures, and Expectations
      • Dependent Variables
        • Overall Student Pass Rate/Latino Student Pass Rate
      • Independent Variables
        • Goal Conflict
      • Controls
        • Lagged Overall/Latino Pass Rate
      • Resources and Constraints
        • Resources
    • Findings and Discussion
      • Goal Conflict and Organizational Performance
    • Conclusion
    • References
 

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In brief, this paper revisits the Public Administration roots and facets of the Bloom- ington School of Public Choice and Institutional Theory and in doing that, it reopens the

In brief, this paper revisits the Public Administration roots and facets of the Bloom-

ington School of Public Choice and Institutional Theory and in doing that, it reopens the

discussion of the Public Administration angle in Public Choice, now that the normative and

applied dimension seems to be an emerging frontier for its research agenda. This exercise

may offer a good starting point for a discussion of how contemporary Public Choice may

continue to advance its applied agenda using as a vehicle the roads opened by the Ostroms.

2 Public administration: the field and its setting

It looks like the precondition of making operational Steven Brams’s call for going ‘‘from

theory to practice’’ and of the strategy to ‘‘translate research findings into actions’’ is to

Public Choice (2015) 163:111–127 113

123

recognize that between the analytical insights of the Public Choice research program and

their application in public policy, lays an entire intermediate domain of decisive impor-

tance. Both analytically and institutionally, the distinction between the domain of public

policy and the domain of Public Administration is compelling. The two are intrinsically

related, yet they are different in practice. That difference and its practical implications are

not always recognized by researchers usually tempted to think about the applied side

directly in terms of public policy. That is an increasingly likely attitude especially since the

field of Public Policy Studies has been institutionalized in academia in the last decades,

obscuring even more the domain of Public Administration. Yet, a brief overview will show

not only why Public Choice scholars interested in practical applications should not make

this error but also recognize the inherent link between Public Choice and Public Admin-

istration. In doing that, the pivotal position the Ostroms’ work holds in this respect will

emerge naturally.

The notion of ‘‘Public Administration’’ evokes inevitably the idea of the institutional-

ization of public or collective action: the organization and management of men and

resources in governance. It is about the technology of human cooperation taking place

through various arrangements of social coordination, cooperation, command, monitoring

and control. There are in fact two usages of the term, related but ultimately different: the

first is of an activity, a specific form of social cooperation to materialize in the real-life

organization and management of people and resources. Usually (and in this article) that

field designated as ‘‘public administration’’. The second is of a discipline, an area of study

and inquiry, an academic and public discourse domain that explores both positively and

normatively the processes, organizations and institutional arrangements associated with the

activity of Public Administration. Usually (and in this article) that gets designated as

‘‘Public Administration’’.

 

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Thus we come to realize that it may be the case that the current incapacity of the Publi

 Public Choice (2015) 163:111–127

123

Thus we come to realize that it may be the case that the current incapacity of the Public

Choice program to effectively move to the policy and applied stage may have something to

do with the way the domain of Public Administration is perceived (or misperceived) and

approached (or sidestepped). But this is also the point when we realize that the resources to

overcome this predicament (or at least to understand it better) are already there, in the

Public Choice tradition. Although today this fact seems ignored or forgotten, the truth is

that the Public Choice revolution was from the very beginning strongly rooted precisely in

the field of Public Administration. Looking back at its own history, it may be the case that

some important clues about how the next step should be made are to be found in the very

work of some of the pioneers of the Public Choice movement.

It may sound surprising to many but that was precisely the domain of Vincent and Elinor

Ostrom’s initial work. The Ostroms dealt with Public Administration not figuratively, in between

the lines and by default, as many other public choicers do, but literarily. During the initial decades

of Public Choice, the Bloomington scholars were the main promoters of the Public Choice

revolution in the field of Public Administration. Moreover, they were at the very core of that field,

outliers, but not eccentrics. In the ‘60s and ‘70s their work was in many respects defined by a

systematic attempt not only to introduce Public Choice insights into the discipline dealing with

the study of the administrative side of public affairs but, even more, to revolutionize this field, to

incite a ‘‘paradigm shift’’ towards the Public Choice foundational principles.

If that is the case, it looks like revisiting the contours of the Bloomington School’s place and

contributions in the context of the applied field of Public Administration is of great interest in

more than one way. This paper is an attempt to deal with some of the challenges emerging from

that task and it has several main objectives: first, to outline briefly the nature of Public

Administration as a field, with a view to better understand its inherent link with Public Choice

and why in order to gain policy relevance, Public Choice needs to systematically engage it.

Clarifying this point will give an enhanced sense of the meaning and context of the Ostroms’

work in this respect: an attempt to promote the Public Choice perspective in Public Admin-

istration, and the Public Administration perspective in Public Choice. Second, to take a closer

look at the nature, significance and reception of Ostroms’ work in the field of Public Admin-

istration and to substantiate the claim that the Ostroms were the main advocates of Public

Choice in Public Administration studies and that they were recognized as such by the field. The

evidence is overwhelming and the fact that this essential side of their contribution seems largely

to be neglected today requires some explanation. Third, to take note of the reception of the

Ostroms’ Public Administration perspective in the context of Public Choice—or more pre-

cisely, of its fiasco. Last but not least, to look at what could be said about the limits of the

standard Public Choice approach, when seen from the viewpoint of the Ostroms and what the

insights gained from that perspective may mean to us today

 

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it doesn’t grow naturally and spontaneously from the equilibrium in which the current stage of the research pro

it doesn’t grow naturally and spontaneously from the equilibrium in which the current

stage of the research program has stabilized. A more robust and methodical push-forward

is needed. And in this respect, a closer look at what could mean and entail concretely, more

precisely, the advance towards action and policy, may help us to understand how such a

desired leap forward may be accomplished. What does it mean, more precisely, to think in

terms of applicable ‘‘constructive alternatives’’ to the status quo? To answer that, one needs

to answer a related question: what is implied institutionally, strategically and organiza-

tionally in the process of translating research findings into action? Once the approach takes

a pragmatic, practical turn, the first thing to note is that, one is aware of it or not, one likes

it or not, policy and institutional change is executed in modern societies through the Public

Administration apparatus. That means that to avoid being just another form of ‘‘ideal-

theory’’ or a peculiar and technically sophisticated form of ‘‘critical theory’’, Public Choice

has to profoundly and programmatically engage the territory of an already established

domain, the field and practice of Public Administration.

There are two reasons that make this inevitable: the first is rather general and has

already been suggested. Before discussing specific public policies and initiatives—policy

theory, policy design, policy implementation, policy evaluation—one needs to deal with

the institutional and constitutional arrangements that set up the stage for policy action, to

factor in realistically the organizational and administrative instruments, the formal and

informal rules of the game in place. Irrespective of the nature of the disciplinary knowl-

edge of relevance (be it based in sociology, Political Science, macroeconomics or Public

Choice), using that knowledge to address policy issues means dealing with the mechanisms

and processes of the modern administrative state. Even when those very policies require

changing the structure and operation of those very mechanisms, the approach is the same.

It is a ‘‘social reflexivity’’ task: changing institutional arrangements through (sometimes

the very same) institutional arrangements.

And thus, we have come to the second reason, closer to the core of the Public Choice

project, and more specific to it. There are many situations in which implementing a public

policy requires a change of rules, incentives and processes, i.e., something that goes

beyond a simple, basic operational level implementation of a policy decision in a given

setting. In fact, a large part of the reforms and policy implications emerging from the

insights of the Public Choice research program are precisely about the institutional

structure of the administrative state and its functioning at all of its different levels: from the

lowest, the operational one, to the highest, constitutional choice. The Public Choice

approach to public policy is by its nature mostly indirect: to go, by way of institutional and

incentive structures to deal with the ecology of decision making in different settings, to

analyze the various patterns of cooperation and coordination in specific architectures of

choice. But, at a closer look, this is exactly the domain of Public Administration: the

institutional and organizational engineering of the architecture of Public Choice. Public

Administration is first and foremost about the building, maintaining and operating in real-

life structures and processes that function as preconditions the infrastructure and deter-

minants of real-life public policies and their management. From the operation of the

electoral system to the implementation of macroeconomic policies, from the monitoring

and enforcement of constitutional rules to the regulatory framework of the market, the

apparatus of Public Administration is vital. Seen in this light, it looks like Public

Administration and Public Choice are connected intrinsically, they seem to be different

facets of the same coin. In brief, Public Choice, whether one is aware of it or not, whether

one likes it or not, is, when it comes to the applications, more about Public Administration

than about anything else.

 

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Public Administration, Public Choice and the Ostroms: the achievements, the failure, the promise

Public Administration, Public Choice and the Ostroms: the achievements, the failure, the promise

Paul Dragos Aligica

Received: 28 July 2014 / Accepted: 23 December 2014 / Published online: 7 January 2015 � Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Abstract The paper explores the Public Administration roots and facets of the Bloom- ington School of Public Choice and Institutional Theory and in doing that, it revisits the

problem of the applied dimension of Public Choice. The paper investigates and documents

the nature, significance and reception of Vincent and Elinor Ostrom’s work, approaching it

as a pioneering attempt to promote a double agenda: on the one hand, to advance Public

Choice theory as a paradigm shift in Public Administration, and on the other, to advance

Public Administration as the preeminent applied domain of Public Choice theory.

Keywords Public Administration � Public Policy � Normative Theory � Institutional Theory � Institutional Design

1 Introduction

The Presidential Address to the Public Choice Society meeting in New Orleans in 2006

was dedicated by Steven Brams to a direction ‘‘for the most part ignored in the scholarly

literature on public choice’’: the use of the theory and insights of this research program ‘‘to

propose and to try to implement reforms that we deem desirable’’. Central to the Address

was the observation that largely missing from the Public Choice paradigm ‘‘are attempts to

translate research findings into actions that might improve how individual and collective

choices are made’’ and that it is crucial to ‘‘distinguish these efforts from those who never

tire of finding fault with a policy or program but do not propose constructive alternatives’’

(Brams 2006, p. 246).

In the years since Brams made those remarks, efforts have been made to move in the

direction indicated, yet the progress has been slow and timid. Hence, Brams’s criticism

continue to be as apt now as then. It seems that the step he advocated doesn’t come easily;

P. D. Aligica (&) F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Mercatus Center, George Mason University, 3351 North Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22201, USA e-mail: daligica@mercatus.gmu.edu

123

 

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Conclusion Th is assessment of the status of scholarship in public administra- tion in light of Simon’s essay on “Th e Proverbs of Administration

Conclusion Th is assessment of the status of scholarship in public administra- tion in light of Simon’s essay on “Th e Proverbs of Administration” generates a relatively mixed picture. Some progress has been made. Research techniques have improved and dispersed greatly among scholars. Current graduates of PhD programs and even master of public administration programs possess a far higher level of skills than they did in Simon’s time. Systematic bodies of work appear on a wide

To build theory, as Simon envisioned it, as an inductive

process requires individuals who can take the various individual

studies and fi t them into a broader mosaic and show us how the elephant of public administration really looks.

22 Public Administration Review • January | February 2015

Research and Practice: A Methodological Manifesto.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Th eory 11(1): 139–45.

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In various guises, I see approximately 250 reviews a year, many of these by oth- ers on articles that I review.

. In various guises, I see approximately 250 reviews a year, many of these by oth- ers on articles that I review. I make no claims that this is anything other than a biased sample based on my own opinions as to what constitutes a good review. Because a substantial portion of my own research is focused outside of public administration in political science and, to a lesser extent, public health and economics, some of this information is comparative.

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Investing in Theory Th e puzzle of empirical theory in public administration is that very little theoretical work seems to appear in our journals, based on my unscientifi c assessment, yet at the same time, many of the most widely cited works are theoretical. To build theory, as Simon envisioned it, as an inductive process requires individuals who can take the various individual studies and fi t them into a broader mosaic and show us how the elephant of public administration really looks. Th eory could take a variety of forms, such as literature reviews that develop theoretical propositions (see Boyne 2003), meta-analyses (Ringquist 2013), mathematical presentations (O’Toole and Meier 2011), or a more informal genera- tion of propositions (Rainey and Steinbauer 1999). Judging by the space allocated to such articles in the profes- sional journals, the incentives for generating theory appear to be too low, especially in light of the high citation counts of such articles. Whether the solution is a new journal devoted to theory or an initiative by an editor or editors to showcase theory, the intellectual payoff s of such an eff ort seem self-evident.

Investing in Generalization We know a great deal about public administration based on a limited number of highly productive data sets (see Walker and Andrews, forthcoming). Th e challenge both for scholarship and for practice is whether what we know about English local governments or Texas school districts is relevant to the administration of national security or social welfare programs. Th e literature on representa- tive bureaucracy suggests that we should be skeptical because, although racial and gender representation matter a great deal in schools (Atkins and Wilkins 2013), police departments (Meier and Nicholson-Crotty 2006), and housing programs (Selden 1998), they do not appear to matter at all in contemporary U.S. welfare programs (Soss, Fording, and Schram 2011; Watkins-Hayes 2011). Studies that focus on similar concepts and similar relationships in diff erent national contexts or organizational contexts could add a great deal to building a research base in public administration simi- lar to that envisioned by Simon. We need to know whether public administration principles work in diff erent countries or diff erent agencies, whether concepts change meanings when contexts change (e.g., what does public service motivation mean in a nondemocratic state?), and whether even what is thought of as public administra- tion changes as the political context changes (see Dahl 1947). Some recent cross-national work in public service motivation provides an example of the type of work that could be done (see Kim et al. 2013). Although a systematic study has not been conducted, it appears as though cross-country collaborations are more frequent now than they have been in the past.

 

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The Review Process Th e quality of research in the profession can be no better than the quality of the review process for journals.

The Review Process Th e quality of research in the profession can be no better than the quality of the review process for journals. Unfortunately, the fi eld has never done a systematic assessment of the quality of the blind review process. My own experience-based perceptions are that the process has severe problems.3 Negative reviews of the quality of journal publications go back almost 30 years (Houston and Delevan 1990; Perry and Kraemer 1986; Stallings and Ferris 1988), and edi- torial calls for improvements in research (Perry 2012) suggest that serious problems of reliability and validity are not being caught in the review process. A recent assessment of the use of surveys in pub- lic administration is highly critical of the poor quality of surveys and the lack of documentation in the research (Lee, Benoit-Bryan, and Johnson 2012). A similar analysis of the use of the self-assessments of performance that are commonly used in much public manage- ment research is equally critical (Meier and O’Toole 2013). Th e pro- fession needs to fi nd a way to encourage investments in this public good both to improve the reliability of the process and to generate useful comments for authors to improve their work.

Proverbs and the Evolution of Public Administration 21

variety of topics. At the same time, the idealized end of Simon’s essay has not been attained. We are a long way from knowing precisely how various actions of public administrators aff ect the effi ciency or eff ec- tiveness of programs. Th eoretical development has also not kept pace

with the empirical work, and much of public administration looks to other fi elds and other disciplines for its basic theories.

Th e future prospects for the development of a science of administration as Simon envisioned will progress in an incremental fashion. Much of the time of public administration scholars is devoted to training individuals for prac- tice or contributing directly to government programs by off ering advice or doing applied research rather than producing type of scientifi c

scholarship that Simon envisioned. Public administration faces its own version of bounded rationality constrained by limited resources and problems that are not amenable to quick and fi nal solutions. Some progress will continue simply as a result of inertia. Professors will need to publish to get tenure, and journals will demand quality research. We are witnessing incentives off ered by universities in a wide variety of countries to faculty who publish in the top-ranked journals. Graduate students seeking faculty positions in public administration face similar incentives. Progress will continue; the modest proposals off ered here have the potential to accelerate that progress at the margins.

Acknowledgments I would like to thank Amanda Rutherford and Laurence J. O’Toole for comments on an earlier draft.

Notes 1. Recent work by Greve (2008), Salge (2011), and Nielsen (2013) has taken up

the approach of the behavioral theory of the fi rm. 2. Th eory in this case is a misnomer because the theory is post hoc rather than

predictive, although there are modest eff orts to transform the literature into one that is capable to testing.

 

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