The Public's Business: The Politics and Practices of Government Corporations

The Public's Business: The Politics and Practices of Government Corporations

The Public's Business: The Politics and Practices of Government Corporations

The Public's Business: The Politics and Practices of Government Corporations

Excerpt

Neither the title nor the organization of this book immediately suggests that it reflects comparative study. Comparative study of political organization is essential, in my judgment, to discover how organizational characteristics are associated with variations in performance and political outcomes. Therefore, although I have not tried to include in this one book systematic descriptions of investor-owned corporations, departmentalized government agencies, and government-owned and mixed enterprises abroad, these are the foils against which I have examined American public authorities (or statutory corporations) that engage in similar activities.

The purpose of the study is to analyze public authorities. Another, more difficult, purpose is to begin to explore the complex relationships between organizational characteristics, decision making, and resource allocation. How do the structures devised for administering public business and for channeling resources into public investment influence, determine, or limit the political and economic results of governmental programs? This is a hazardous question, requiring proddings into the work of scholars in public administration, political science, economics, and the sociology of organizations. Specialists in each field may object to loose translations of their language, to synthesizing treatment of their work, to loss of precision and detail.

This book deals with government-owned businesses--primarily state and local--that raise capital by issuing revenue bonds in the private money markets and invest it in public facilities. A central premise of the work is that the money markets form a system in which a significant number of public enterprises dependent on them behave in similar ways.

The structure of the book reflects some personal premises about organizational behavior. Formal organizations are products of culture and history. Strategies for institutional change must begin with historical diagnosis, and this is the job of part I. After an introduction in chapter 1, chapter 2 examines how the historical development of popular ideas and political reforms has shaped American attitudes toward public debt and capital investment, toward the involvement of businessmen in government operations, and toward the proper role of government enterprise. Chapter 2 also explains the legal and academic rationales that have shaped government corporations. It ends with an attempt to replace some inherited values and assumptions about the government corporation with empirical premises that should change the context in which they are judged.

Part II describes the impact of the municipal bond market on public enterprise. The cases included show how the characteristics of the financing sys-

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