The stated purpose of this book is to examine how three world-class critics of big government, Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, Ronald Reagan of the United States, and Brian Mulroney of Canada, 'sought to modernize their bureaucracies.' Although they all failed to achieve their announced goals, Thatcher's reforms were more extensive and more lasting than those of her North American soul mates. . . . This carefully researched book makes a solid contribution to the literature in comparative public administration.
Savoie considers the war of reform waged by the leaders of these major industrial countries. Reagan declared that he had come to Washington to “drain the swamp” of bureaucracy, and set up the Grace Commission to investigate the operation of the U.S. government. Thatcher and Mulroney were equally committed to reform and initiated wide-ranging changes. By the end of the 1990s, the changes were dramatic. Many governments operations had been privatized in all three countries, and new management techniques had been introduced. In Great Britain, one observer judged that the changes were historically as important as the collapse of Keynesian economics. Is government now better in these countries, and was political leadership right in focusing on management of the bureaucracy as the villain? Savoie suggests that the reforms overlooked problems now urgently requiring attention and, at the same time, attempted to address non-existent problems. He combines theory and research based on sixty-two interviews, nearly all with members of the executive branch of the governments of Britain, Canada and the United States.
This book is well researched and written in clear-direct language. It is ideal for both students of government and practitioners.
In this informative and genuinely comparative study Donald Savoie offers valuable insights into the attempts in the '80s to introduce management techniques into government. . . . He concludes that 'politicians are probably in greater need of courses in governance . . . than career officials are in need of management development courses,' an observation which offers a tantalizing prospect for academics, but which is unlikely even to loom on the political horizon!
Excellent for classroom use, but also useful in allowing general readers to follow the latest scholarly thinking.
Savoie's book is a useful and illuminating account of the quest for greater managerial efficiency in three countries. He illustrates the value of a comparative perspective.