Public Entrepreneurs

Public Entrepreneurs: Agents for Change in American Government

Mark Schneider
Paul Teske
with Michael Mintrom
Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    Public Entrepreneurs
    Book Description:

    Seizing opportunities, inventing new products, transforming markets--entrepreneurs are an important and well-documented part of the private sector landscape. Do they have counterparts in the public sphere? The authors argue that they do, and test their argument by focusing on agents of dynamic political change in suburbs across the United States, where much of the entrepreneurial activity in American politics occurs. The public entrepreneurs they identify are most often mayors, city managers, or individual citizens. These entrepreneurs develop innovative ideas and implement new service and tax arrangements where existing administrative practices and budgetary allocations prove inadequate to meet a range of problems, from economic development to the racial transition of neighborhoods. How do public entrepreneurs emerge? How much does the future of urban development depend on them? This book answers these questions, using data from over 1,000 local governments.

    The emergence of public entrepreneurs depends on a set of familiar cost-benefit calculations. Like private sector risk-takers, public entrepreneurs exploit opportunities emerging from imperfect markets for public goods, from collective-action problems that impede private solutions, and from situations where information is costly and the supply of services is uneven. The authors augment their quantitative analysis with ten case studies and show that bottom-up change driven by politicians, public managers, and other local agents obeys regular and predictable rules.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2157-0
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    • CHAPTER 1 Public Entrepreneurs as Agents of Change
      (pp. 3-16)

      Political and economic systems are continually changing. Most social science theories view change as occurring in incremental or evolutionary fashion, and these theories usually model adaptations as responses to environmental forces. But change can be sudden, producing radical shifts in the status quo. In many natural systems, radical change is often the result of exogenous events—a volcano erupts, a large meteor hits the earth, or a virus mutates and hitches a ride into a new population. Exogenous events can also create radical changes in social and political systems. But of even greater interest to us is a basic fact...

    • CHAPTER 2 Bringing Back the Entrepreneur: Neoclassical Economic Models and the Role of the Entrepreneur
      (pp. 17-40)

      While many social science disciplines have analyzed entrepreneurial behavior, entrepreneurs have been considered most important in economic markets. Yet as a discipline, even economics has not focused much energy on developing theories or empirical data about entrepreneurs. Our task in this chapter is to illustrate how neoclassical economics, especially the model of perfect competition, limited the role of entrepreneurship in the theory of the market. We show that by relaxing the strict assumptions of the neoclassical model, the range of strategic options available to actors in real economic situations increases dramatically, producing opportunities for alert entrepreneurs. Throughout the following discussion,...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Functions of Political Entrepreneurs in the Local Market for Public Goods
      (pp. 41-60)

      Entrepreneurs are found in domains other than the world of private markets. However, scholars who have looked beyond the private market tend to use the concept of entrepreneurship as a loose metaphor rather than as a tightly developed analytic concept. These scholars provide only implicit justification for using the term “entrepreneur,” often focusing on just one or two specific actions (such as spotting gaps in policy domains and brokering deals; risking political capital; or creating new coalitions—see, for example, King 1988; Kingdon 1984; Smith 1991), and no sustained effort is made to clarify the extent to which entrepreneurship in...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Market for Entrepreneurs
      (pp. 63-80)

      James Q. Wilson (1989) argued that it is impossible to model the process through which public entrepreneurs emerge—that the emergence of entrepreneurs is a rare event driven by idiosyncratic factors that are hard to identify and to model systematically. Earlier, Shackle (1972) questioned the ability of social scientists to model the emergence of private sector entrepreneurs. In fact, few economists have examined the factors associated with the supply and demand of private sector entrepreneurs. The most notable exception is Casson (1982), who developed an explicit model of the market for private sector entrepreneurs. In this chapter, we develop components...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Emergence of Political Entrepreneurs
      (pp. 81-108)

      Almost since its incorporation in 1920, the village of Malverne, Long Island was controlled by the Independent Party. And Cathy Hunt was sick and tired of it. Although Hunt had been active in many civic organizations, including co-founding and leading the Malverne Civic Association and chairing an “Adopt-A-Station” committee to improve commuter rail station conditions, she had never run for elective office. But Hunt knew that Malverne faced serious problems; its tax rate was among the highest in the county and had reached the legal maximum. As a result, the village had to borrow funds to pay for current services....

    • CHAPTER 6 Entrepreneurs, Policy Dimensions, and the Politics of Growth
      (pp. 109-127)

      In this chapter, we show how the politics of local growth provide myriad opportunities for political entrepreneurship. Previously, we argued that entrepreneurs can affect political outcomes by manipulating the ideas underlying policy debates. In this chapter, we show how the politics of local growth can be understood as a conflict over the way in which citizens think about growth. We start this chapter by reviewing the role that entrepreneurs can play in defining the ideas that structure policy debates. We then turn to the literature on the growth machine and regime politics, emphasizing the link between institutional arrangements and ideology...

    • CHAPTER 7 Entrepreneurial Challenges to the Status Quo: The Case of the Growth Machine
      (pp. 128-146)

      While politics supporting growth is perhaps the dominant pattern throughout the United States, in many communities residential support for progrowth policies has been replaced by growing opposition to further development. Such opposition can be widespread, transcending socioeconomic lines (e.g., Protash and Baldassare 1983; Fainstein and Fainstein 1983; Bollens 1990). Opposition is often organized around neighborhood groups seeking to protect their communities from the deleterious effects of continued growth. These groups then provide fertile ground for a new class of politicians who challenge the policies of the growth machine. We believe that these politicians demonstrate many dimensions of our theory of...

    • CHAPTER 8 Bureaucratic Entrepreneurs: The Case of City Managers
      (pp. 147-168)

      So far in this book we have focused on political entrepreneurs—individuals who seek elective office to pursue their vision of change. Almost all the other entrepreneurs we identified in our field work held bureaucratic positions. In this chapter, we refine our theory of the public entrepreneur and apply it to bureaucrats. Our goal here is to understand the behavior of what we callbureaucratic entrepreneursand study the ways in which they interact with politicians. We argue that bureaucratic entrepreneurs, like their political counterparts, want to make a difference in their community’s policies. Given their expertise and the domains...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Business-Government Nexus in the Local Market for Entrepreneurs
      (pp. 171-184)

      We have relied heavily on economic concepts to develop a model of the market for local public entrepreneurs. In this chapter, building on the concept of the reservation wage for entrepreneurs discussed earlier in the book and the decision calculus underlying it, we show an interrelationship between the private sector and public sector entrepreneurship. We demonstrate how opportunities in the private sector, especially in high-technology manufacturing and finance, affect the frequency of public entrepreneurship. In so doing, we modify the simple economic decision process underlying the concept of the reservation wage by considering how entrepreneurs are “embedded” in social networks....

    • CHAPTER 10 Entry, Voice, and Support for Entrepreneurs
      (pp. 185-210)

      In the local market for public goods, entrepreneurs perceive a demand for political change and act upon their discovery of the opportunities rooted in that demand. To capitalize on these opportunities, entrepreneurs seek elected or appointed office, and then use the powers of their office to try to redirect local politics and policies. But, to be successful, entrepreneurs need to solve difficult collective action problems—a task we argue can be eased by building coalitions for change built on a set of informed and active citizens who favor new policy directions. In this chapter, we identify those citizens who have...

    • CHAPTER 11 Entrepreneurs and Change in the Local Market for Public Goods
      (pp. 213-222)

      Entrepreneurs are important actors in economic and political markets. In this book, we have examined a large but fragmented literature on entrepreneurship; we have developed a political-economic theory of public entrepreneurs; and we have tested elements of this theory using data from a sample of suburban municipal governments.

      Clearly, scholars have used a wide variety of perspectives to explain public entrepreneurship. We have followed closely a paradigm built mostly on economic reasoning. While our approach inevitably led us to consider a market-based model, with particular concern for the supply and demand functions for entrepreneurship, our work diverges significantly from traditional...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 223-238)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  12. Index
    (pp. 257-263)