The late twentieth century was characterized in Europe by a serious challenge, stemming particularly from the European Commission’s Competition Directorate, to public service monopolies, which were accused of being both expensive and inefficient.
A school of thought known as “new public management” developed, advocating the deregulation of these markets, if not indeed the privatization of the enterprises providing the services. These measures were supposed to enable a better quality of service to be achieved at less cost.
Marjorie Jouen shows here that the outcome of this process, particularly from the standpoint of the general interest, hasn’t been very impressive and that a new style of provision of public services is now being put in place, involving service-users alongside decision-makers.
Stressing that France lags behind in this respect, she shows – with illustrative examples – the more effective role that is played and can be played by social experiments and innovations in the, admittedly indispensable, process of modernizing public services. She reminds us, in passing that (as someone like Alexis de Tocqueville took for granted) the collective intelligence of the citizens is more readily able to conduce to the public good than the fashionable procedures of public policy rationalization that are so highly regarded by many policy-makers and their consultants.
Her argument connects in many ways with the concerns that led Futuribles International to launch a study of “social policies facing the challenge of innovation”; to search out the most interesting innovations introduced in various countries (see the list of these on the Futuribles website); and subsequently to produce a whole series of monographs, one of which is presented by Julien Damon in this issue in his article “The One-Stop Shop is Possible”.