This paper concerns the nexus between mainstream economics and what James Galbraith has called â€œthe collapse of the public governing capacity.â€ That collapse is due in great part to the imposition of market precepts on the public domain. Over the last several decades, market advocates have imposed upon government a pseudo-market with outcomes ranging from the unfortunate to the disastrous. So-called â€œNew Public Managementâ€ â€“ a child of neoclassical economics â€“ has colonized and weakened every level of public administration. Hollowed out through the cathartic of a â€œcompetition prescription,â€ the public sector time and again seems to fail us, so systems of performance measurement are put in place, ostensibly to improve results but instead often leaving harm in their wake. We find our most basic public services and rights in jeopardy, from clean air and water to unencumbered judicial due process.
There is no viable explanatory theory of the public non-market economy or of production within it, nor any consensus about how to measure public purpose or assess results in the public domain. In this new Working Paper, GDAE Research Fellow June Sekera argues that today we lack a coherent, comprehensive theory of the public economy. She outlines the elements of a theory of the public non-market, and suggests an approach to explaining its forces, flows and dynamics.