'To Join Interest with Duty'

By Sturgess, Gary | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, September 2003 | Go to article overview

'To Join Interest with Duty'


Sturgess, Gary, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


AROUND the same time as the Pitt administration in England decided that it would deal with its prison overcrowding by sending large numbers of convicts to Botany Bay, the political philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with an alternative solution.

Bentham proposed that a prison be constructed in London using the very latest technology. It would be commissioned by central government and managed by a private contractor. The father of Utilitarianism named his imagined prison 'Panopticon' and he recommended that Jeremy Bentham himself be appointed as its operator.

Bentham argued that well-written and well-enforced contracts could be used to align the self-interest of the private sector with the public interest-'to join interest with duty, and that by the strongest cement that can be found.'

Two hundred years later, contracting has made a strong return. Public-private partnerships are now being actively pursued in much of the English-speaking world and in a number of countries in Europe and Asia as well.

And, once again, the question is being asked: Are private companies capable of having a public service ethos?

TRUST IN PUBLIC SERVICES

What are the concerns with private sector involvement in the delivery of public services? By and large, the problem is not efficiency or effectiveness but public trust. This is an extraordinarily complicated subject, so let me simplify it massively by reducing it to three issues:

People versus systems

There is a natural tendency of human beings to recognize and identify with other human beings. People are inclined to trust other people in preference to institutions or systems. And they are more inclined to trust people who work with people (doctors and nurses) than people who work with systems (managers and bureaucrats).

As a result, individual public service workers are usually more trusted than the institutions for which they work-in the UK, doctors are trusted much more than the National Health Service, judges and police officers more than the criminal justice system.

This preference for people over systems is probably very old, but over the past 50 years, right throughout the Western world, there has been a marked deterioration of trust in large-scale institutions.

Performance versus motives

The public generally believes that the private sector is more efficient than the public sector. By and large, they don't need to be convinced that-where performance can be measured-the private sector delivers better outcomes than government, particularly when it is exposed to competition.

But in many public services, judgements about performance are difficult for ordinary folk to make, since outcomes are complex, contingent or inherently conflictual.

In these circumstances, the public tends to rely more on the motives of people and organizations rather than measured performance. Monsanto may be highly effective in developing genetically-modified foods, but since it is virtually impossible for me to understand the long-term consequences, I am inclined to place much greater reliance upon their motives.

Public accountability

There is a very close association between accountability and trust. At the most basic level, the public sector is seen as being more transparent and more open to external scrutiny.

Public services arc also thought to be more accountable because they simplify an otherwise complex world and, in some cases, provide us with agents to negotiate with the system on our behalf. They arc also seen as part of a wider democratic system which increases the likelihood that service providers will reflect the values of the diverse range of citizen/ users.

THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANIES

The real question is whether it is possible to create conditions under which private sector providers will pursue the public good in the normal course of business. Public-private partnerships are such a recent phenomenon that one might conclude there are not enough case studies to undertake such an inquiry. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

'To Join Interest with Duty'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.