Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Two Models of Government

The Vending Machine Model of Government. . . “Much of the government continues to operate within the vending –machine model. Government still calculates and distributes monthly Social Security payments. It collects taxes and audits returns. It picks up garbage and mows parkland grass. It maintains national historic sites and runs mass transit. The vending-machine model is the great governance legacy of the nineteenth-century Progressives, and it tends to work reasonably well for programs that produce relatively routine services within hierarchies. [Problems like] Katrina , however, represent the new generation of problems. . . . They need instead a leveraged government across complex networks: government leaders who can effectively align public, private, nonprofit, American, and global players across the mess boundaries of action.”

The Collaborative Model of Government. . . . The new tools of governance “embody an approach very different from the traditional vending-machine model, in which government seeks to design a machine by which it produces government services itself. There lies the critical problem: government’s ability to work effectively and to hold its agency accountable depends on its ability to leverage the way these other actors employ tools on its behalf. The right combination of effectiveness and accountability, in turn, requires great subtlety and skill. It also needs an approach to governance that relies on leverage instead of command, on building incentives instead of fine-tuning the vending machine.”

“The system’s enormous difficulty in solving these problems has created the two great governance problems of the day: One is how to manage traditional services in a reliable and efficient way. The other is how to govern the increasingly complex array of Mildred- and Katrina-style policies. The puzzle is how to put the vending-machine and leveraged-governance approaches side by side – to assign the right program to the right approach, to ensure that each works well, and to prevent one from interfering with the other. . . . The government that Mildred and Katrina require is not one that sweeps away the old and replaces it with the new but one that governs through two interconnected systems: one for routine policies managed through hierarchies, the other for non-routine problems governed through networks.”

-The Next Government: Donald Kettl

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