Public Priorities, the NPM, and the Iowa Test Case

AuthorRobert F. Durant
Published date01 March 1999
Date01 March 1999
Subject MatterComment: Taking a Second Look
91Spring 1999
State an d Local Government Review
Vo l. 31, No. 2 (Spring 1999): 91-94
WHEN ASKED IF the French Revo-
lution of the 18th century was
a success, 20th-century Chinese
Premier Chou En-lai responded that it was
too early to tell. The same certainly can be s aid
about th e New Public Management (NPM).
Research ers are only beginning to get a sense
of its p romise versus its performance. And in
perhaps the greatest irony of a movement
purportedly geared toward consumer sover-
eignty, we know v ery l ittl e abou t how citizens
feel about the NPM reforms taking place. This
is what makes Professor Bundt’s and Profes-
sor Lutz’s research so welcome, timely, and
Their work becomes even more valuable
when they espouse the virtues of an educa-
tive role for public managers. As a recent
study by the Council for Excellence in Gov-
ernment (1999) concluded, the “challenge for
21st Century government
is reconnecting
with the public it serves.” Survey research
such as that und erta ken i n Iowa i s an i mpo r-
tant component of realizing this goal. As such,
I hope that Professors Bundt and Lutz will
continue this very significant line of research,
and I look forward to reading their work in
the future.
Rather than dismiss their conclusions, my
intention is to posit alternative interpretations
Ta k i n g a Second Look
Public Priorities, the NPM, and the Iowa Test Case
Robe rt F. Durant
From the Editor—
A major goal of the Review is to provide a fo-
rum for the exchange of ideas among scholars
and professionals about significant governance
issues. In recent years, the New Public Man-
agement and its concern for results, perfor-
mance, and citizen values has been a visible
and important theme in public administration.
In the preceding article, Bundt and Lutz report
the results of a survey of Iowa citizens, con-
cluding that citizens value honest government
more than they do businesslike government.
In reviewing this article for publication, one of
the referees offered an interesting and critical
perspective on how the survey data were gath-
ered and what those data actually might mean.
At our request, Robert F. D ura nt pr epared this
“comment” based on his review, and the au-
thors prepared a brief reply. We hope this ex-
change stimulates further discussion about
how best to understand citizen attitudes to-
ward public management.
of their findings. In my judgment, the study’s
design, conceptualization of key concepts,
and factor loading scores make any conclu-
sions premature about Iowans giving higher
priority to “hone st” over “businesslike” gov-
ernment. Moreover, extending the study’s find-
ings about trustworthiness to NPM reforms,

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