High Performance Government Versus Minimal Government

Blog, Role of Government, Les Routledge

I have not reviewed this book yet, but this article offers me an opportunity to pontificate.

One thing that attracted me to the FCPP in the past was its emphasis on high performance government.  The concept, which I believe originated in New Zealand, was based on the principle that public sector and unionized operations could function as effectively as non-unionized private sector organizations if they were presented with the appropriate motivations and performance standards.

It might be that that approach is a naive concept, but I still acknowledge that there are a lot of motivated, principled and effective people working in public sector administration in Canada.  From my experience, these individuals are not the under-worked, pension-gobbling, seat-warming people presented by the Tea Party movements of this world.  For the most part, they are motivated to make a positive contribution and our challenge as policy analysts is to figure out how to make that situation a reality.

When it comes to manufacturing policy, the subject scares the heck out of me, but on the other hand, we have to realize that we are living in a world where foreign governments practice merchantile industrial policies.  When our manufacturers or others are confronting state-backed competitors, we need smart government, not minimal government in my mind.

A comparable situation exists when foreign governments are tempted to employ non-tariff barriers to limit the export of our products into their markets.  To me, the Keystone Pipeline debate in the US is exactly this type of process, where some players in the Washington environment are playing the environment card to restrict exports of Canadian crude supplies into the US market in the misguided notion that that tactic will increase the value of oil produced in the USA.

A Libertarian vision of minimal government is a worthy goal, but that approach only works as long as we are living  in an environment where competition operating in foreign countries operate in a comparable environment.