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Read The need for a new public administration
送交者: jingchen 2018年06月28日23:54:58 于 [教育学术] 发送悄悄话

Reading The need for a new public administration by James K. Galbraith 


Tourists may be greatly excited by the moments of encounters between lions and zebras. The market for transactions between animals are truly fascinating. But serious researchers of animals will study the physiology and anatomy of animals, the environment and behaviour of animals and their evolutionary history.


Causal observers may be greatly excited by the ups and downs of the markets. The markets for buying and selling are truly fascinating. But serious researchers would study functions and structures of businesses, the environment and behaviours of businesses and their evolutionary history. Would they? So far, most economists put little emphasis on these questions. Governments and regulations exist only “to make market work”. Social structures only have secondary importance. James Galbraith is one of the few exceptions. 

He recently wrote an article called The need for a new public administration. The following are the beginning and end of this article.

Public administration was at one time an essentially pragmatist and Institutionalist discipline, concerned with imparting best-practice knowledge of procedure, hierarchy, the missions and functions of agencies and the separation of powers, as well as rule-making and budgeting, under a broad structure of belief that organized methodical action – the stuff of bureaucracy – was more likely to bring success to the state than the impulses of kings or dictators or the habits and dogmas of priests, let alone those of mad charismatic commanders on the battlefield. One might say that in modern America public administration was rooted in the victory of Grant over Lee.

As a discipline these ideas were founded on Hegel's admiration of the Prussian state and Weber's concept of bureaucracy as the vehicle for rational action. These reached their zenith in America with the Progressive movement, the New Deal and the (popular image of) industrial mobilization for World War II. By the 1960s that zenith was past. The application of bureaucratic rationality to the Vietnam war did a great deal of damage. And as the administrative state took hold in the civilian sphere, it engendered an ethno-populist reaction to civil rights, voting rights, anti-poverty programs, public lands and environmental protection. The “best and brightest” were reviled by one camp and the “pointy-headed bureaucrats” by another.

......

In related work, Jing Chen and I have advanced a biophysical perspective on socio-economic phenomena that is relevant to the case. Our argument, in a nutshell, is that all living systems – whether biological, mechanical or social – function in accord with certain immutable principles, governed by thermodynamic law. All extract resources from their environment. All process those resources, generating useful energy, put to purpose. And all release waste.

But most important for the present argument, all biological, mechanical and social systems must regulate their use of resources. They regulate to keep energy released in the consumption of resources within the tolerances of the materials available for containing and directing that energy to useful effect. Thus mammals regulate their blood pressure (and it is a curious fact that the normal blood pressure of all mammals is approximately the same) and their body temperatures. To keep cool, they sweat or pant; to fight off cold they cover themselves with fat and fur. If the blood pressure goes too high, the classic symptoms – stroke, aneurysm, heart attack – are related to the inability of the processing structures to cope. Similarly for engines: fans, radiators, cooling systems, and metals strong and resilient enough to stay in shape in the face of high-temperature operations. The greater the heat differential, the more efficient the engine.

The need for similar forms of regulation in social and economic systems are so widely known and acknowledged that we sub-consciously adopt the metaphors of biological and mechanical systems. We speak of “depression” in both the psychological and economic sense. We speak of “bubbles” to indicate an intrinsically unstable (because unregulated) phenomenon, destined to fail. When failure happens, we speak of “market melt-downs”. That deregulation is the parent of melt-down in the financial sphere, especially, is so well-established as no longer to require debate. The purpose of regulation is not modify the behavior of an existing market. It is to alter the conditions of economic and social life, so that ever-larger and more-efficient structures can flourish and be sustained, permitting to all a greater access to comfort and an easier and healthier and happier and longer life.

Let me suggest that the creation of a new discipline of public management and public administration in the modern academy should start from this point of departure. To make it happen, it would be sufficient for university leaders and administrators to commit an act of will and a dedication of resources – much as they have done, over the years, to the sciences and engineering and to the practical aspects of business. To make it stick, there would need to be, in the enterprise, an ironclad assurance of dedication to modern conceptions of evolutionary process, and an immunization from the temptations of equilibrium and illusions of self- organized, self-regulating harmonies. These are, after all, classic delusions of an ancien régime.

The whole paper can be found at

real-world economics review, issue no. 84

http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue84/Galbraith84.pdf


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