Pragmatist and neo-classical policy paradigms in public services

Which is the better template for program design?

Ian Marsh*, Ben Spies-Butcher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)


Principal-agent theory alerts principals to their problematic relationship with agents. The former are encouraged to take deliberate action to counter asymmetries in knowledge, moral hazard etc. To avoid this, principals should determine outcomes and contracts and incentives should be designed to achieve them. This approach has influenced the form of purchaser-provider arrangements, including the Job Network. This article reviews impacts, which include incentives for gaming and increased transaction costs. Another survey highlighted the extent to which innovation in the disability employment sector had depended on collaboration, which competition would end. The article then sketches an alternative pragmatic or experimental approach, which assumes that the centre can never establish outcomes that are other than provisional and corrigible. Program design needs to be built around this fundamental fact. Learning not 'carrots and sticks' is the appropriate form of relationship. The article explores the feasibility of this approach in a Job Network context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-255
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Public Administration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009

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