NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Various Visions Of Reform

August 29, 1997

Some management specialists point out there are various ways to reform government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service. Identifying the different reforms possible will allow the selection of the best choice to meet particular objectives.

There are four competing visions for reforms:

  • "Scientific management" prescribes a tighter chain of command for efficiency through organizational engineering.
  • "Liberation management" entails greater freedom from rules for good people thought to be trapped in bureaucratic systems.
  • The "watchful-eye tradition" relies on greater public access to expose abuses of power.
  • Tougher oversight stems from a "war on waste" approach, with the goal of cost savings.

Management specialists point out that each of these competing philosophies has unintended consequences. Scientific management creates hierarchies and rules. The war on waste approach chills risk-taking. The watchful-eye method creates an adversarial administrative culture. And liberation management can reduce public access.

Other observers contend that the shear size of government is the culprit; that reform must start with the question: "Is this function truly necessary for government to perform in a democratic free-enterprise system, and is it prudent to entrust these powers to government?"

Source: Paul C. Light (Pew Charitable Trusts), "Reform Government? Again?" Wall Street Journal, August 29, 1997.


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