Public Values and Public Interest: Counterbalancing Economic Individualism

By Barry Bozeman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
ECONOMIC INDIVIDUALISM AND THE
“PUBLICNESS” OF POLICIES:
CASES AND CONTROVERSIES

Every good cause is worth some inefficiency.

—PAUL SAMUELSON (Lohr 2004)

Is economic individualism sweeping the world? In the words of economist Robert Kuttner (1997), is “everything for sale”? Do we serve “one market under God,” with market populism being “the New American consensus” (Frank 2004, xv)? Or perhaps public policies and public management are proceeding more as less as usual, the cyclical shifts in public and economic forces occurring well with normal range? One might well argue that in the United States not much of consequence has changed. There is still a “social safety net,” albeit one that seems to be shrinking, and the New Deal compact forged by Roosevelt is still in place, if a bit shaken.

This book cannot provide a good answer to the “have things really changed” question, and, fortunately, its justification does not depend on any particular answer to that question. Policy and public management history is always about the ebb and flow of political and economic forces and the values they represent. Ideas pertaining to those values have perennial importance. This chapter emphasizes policies and government reforms arising from the shifts to market-based policies and governance, but less because of an inexorable march toward market-based policies than because there will always be market (and political) forces in democratically conceived governance.


“COUNTERBALANCING”?

Note the book's subtitle: “Counterbalancing Economic Individualism.” This subtitle does not imply that policy-theories-based assumptions of economics or economic individualism are harmful, wrong, or of little practical use. Indeed, economics-based policy theories and ideas often contribute enormously

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