A Brief, Annotated Bibliography on Public-Private Sector Ethics

Article excerpt

Books

Berman, Evan M., West, Jonathan P., and Bonczek, eds., The Ethics Edge, Washington, D.C.: International City/County Management Association, 1998.

This International City/County Management Association (ICMA) publication has assembled articles that provide new insights on values in government and the public administration profession. Ethics shape and define the nature of public professions. Managers and employees who are informed by ethics have an added "edge" because they are more likely to know the right thing to do, to undertake those actions, to justify actions on the basis of professional and moral criteria and to protect themselves against being blindsided by allegations of ethical impropriety. Along with the traditional types of ethical challenges confronting managers today are government reform strategies, rising cynicism among citizens, and the challenges of community building.

Donahue, John D., The Privatization Decision, New York: Basic Books, 1989. Soft cover, $18.50.

The decision whether to delegate a public duty to a private organization depends on whether it is possible to structure efficient arrangements in a manner that enforces accountability on those who act on behalf of their fellows. Privatization can be effective where appropriate organizational architecture is in place. The measure of that architecture is how well it deters opportunism and irresponsibility and promotes faithful stewardship. The more precisely a task can be specified in advance and its performance evaluated after the fact, the more certainly contractors can be made to compete; the more readily disappointing contractors can be replaced (or otherwise penalized); and the more narrowly government cares about ends rather than means, the stronger becomes the case for employing profit-seekers rather than civil servants. The author demonstrates these generalizations through a series of "cases and cautionary tales". The privatization decision ultimately depends on precise specifications, the presence of competition, and a carefully drawn public organizational process. The same desire to maximize profits that results in greater efficiency also motivates the private institution to exercise political influence so it is romantic to believe that a private organization pursuing public goals, without competition and without market tests, will lead to greater efficiency.

Hodge, Graeme A., Privatization: An International Review of Performance, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000. Soft cover, $28.00.

Since the mid-seventies, writers in numerous countries have studied contracting out and the sale of government enterprises. Hodge has done a meta-analysis of hundreds of these studies on the basis of five "performance dimensions": economic performance, the social dimension (service impacts as well as employment and other impacts), and the performance of privatization in terms of democratic process issues, legal issues, and political issues. Where possible, he utilizes quantitative measures, but draws on qualitative measures particularly in the case of legal and political issues. Among his findings are that the average cost savings differ markedly by service sector, that service quality is relatively unaffected by contracting out, and that the presence of competition is more important than whether the work is contracted out to the public or private sector. Privatization is more problematic when one or more of the five performance dimensions are ignored. The book concludes with a thorough bibliography on privatization throughout the world.

Kettl, Donald F, Sharing Power: Public Governance and Private Markets, Washington, D. C.: Brookings Institution, 1993. Hard cover, $38.95.

In the flush of enthusiasm to make government work better, reformers from both left and right have pushed to turn as many functions as possible over to the private sector, and thereby allow market competition to instil efficiency and choice. …