Butler, Patrick, and Collins, Neil (2004). “Citizen as Consumer.” In Neil Collins and Terry Cradden (Eds.), Political Issues in Ireland Today. Manchester University Press, 135-148.

Citizen as consumer has advantages for improving efficiency, but also threatens democracy (135) — very much as Ryan (2001) says.

  1. “Citizen as consumer” comes from New Public Management (NPM): movement across Western democracies
    1. big role for marketing
    2. “focus on market operations and management of customer service” (135)
    3. see Osborne and Gaebler (1993), “the American NPM gurus” (146)
  2. “The ultimate paradox is that better utilisation of managment technologies may damage political processes and institutions, because treating citizens as consumers involves both positive and negative outcomes…. Problems associated with the separation of politics and administration are raised in this context. Initiatives relating to the provision of government services by electronic means (often called ‘eGovernment’) that primarily emphasize customer service delivery will also be vulnerable to such difficulties” (emphasis mine, 135-136).
  3. NPM-CAC perspective appealing — “How could anyone not want better service?” (140) and “We should run government like a business” (143) — but weakens sense of corresponding rights and social responsibilities/duties/obligations. Govt must be “guided by objective policies aimed at meeting social rather than personal needs” (142, quoting Humphreys, 1998:19).
  4. Elaborates on Ryan (2001), notes that consumer mindset lessens sense of collective responsibility: we can’t have a system where only the direct “consumers” of higher education get a say on higher ed policy; the whole community gets to take part
  5. Again summarizing Ryan (2001): “…the market model implies that the production of public services is a technical rather than political process…” (143)
  6. Market-driven managerialism is primarily based on happy customers rather than involved citizens” (144).
  7. Market research (focus groups, surveys, etc.) may actually keep the public at a distance (145)
    1. Well, that’s problematic for my methodology….
  8. They include “principles guiding Civil Service Customer Action Plans” which refer to “customers”

Ryan, Neal 2001 Reconstructing Citizens as Consumers: Implications for New Modes of Governance Australian Journal of Public Administration 60:3 104-109

Nail on the head: the market model of citizens as consumers is bad. Great advocate for CLDS.

  • 1980s-1990s: emphasis on improving service by creating markets: privatize, make government compete
    • inadequate model for regime of partnerships and cooperation
    • inadequate there isn’t real competition for services
  • “citizen as consumer” hurts citizen-govt relationship
    • redefines relationship as “passive commercial transaction rather than an interactive political engagement” (105)
    • emphasizes “sovereignty of the individual over the public good” (105)
    • market mindset breaks down if market forces (competition, consumer knowledge, etc.) don’t apply
    • oversimplifies relationship: often not voluntary; not simple reciprocation of services for taxes/payment; ignores mutual commitment” (107)
  • Implications
    • “public confidence in government is likely to be higher in circumstances in which there are high levels of participations, engagement and knowledge” (107)
    • surveys great, do more, but don’t allow them to replace real political engagement: ranking preferences on a filtered list of choices created by a pollster still isn’t as good as taking the floor and presenting your own original idea
    • “focus on individual satsifaction diminishes the contribution of public services to building the social capital that may result from a focus on collective relationships” (107)
    • “the language of producers and consumers contributes to notions of elitist government”!!! (107) contributes to impression of govt as “high value producers of services” filled with experts whom the rest of us mere mortals have to sit back and trust and not presume to bother with our humble opinions