The State at Work, Volume 2

The State at Work, Volume 2

Comparative Public Service Systems

Edited by Hans-Ulrich Derlien and B. Guy Peters

Representing the most extensive research on public employment, this volume explores the radical changes that have taken place in the configuration of national public services due to a general expansion of public employment that was followed by stagnation and decreases. Part-time employment and the involvement of women also increased as a component of the public sector and were linked to the most important growth areas such as the educational, health care and personal social services sectors. The two volumes that make up this study shed important insight on these changes.

Chapter 4: Regional Government and Public Employment

B. Guy Peters

Subjects: economics and finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public policy

Extract

B. Guy Peters The typical political system in the contemporary world functions with at least three levels – central, intermediate and local – with European countries typically adding the fourth, EU level. The functional logic of structuring the task of governing in this manner is based on the need to provide services distributed across space, with different levels of government being assigned (at least in theory) those functions best provided within the particular geographical and population size of the government. There are also political considerations involved in the assignment of activities and in the granting of levels of autonomy to the intermediate and local governments. Some of this political influence on the relative powers of levels of government is a function of basic constitutional decisions such as the creation of a federal constitution, but there is also the pressure to move political decisions closer to the public and presumably thereby to enhance democracy. There is, therefore, a strong pressure in contemporary politics to decentralize, and to move power away from central government toward intermediate and lower levels of government. Decentralization has been one of the central political dynamics characterizing the past several decades. Whether the term used is ‘state’, ‘province’, ‘region’ or whatever, there has been a tendency to shift political power and responsibilities for public policies away from the central governments and toward the sub-national level of government. This movement of political and policy-making power has been generalized, with both levels functioning below the central government – those that would...

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