Steven Kelman

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Steven Kelman (born 1948) is an American organizational theorist, and Professor of Public Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of the Harvard University.


  • If both a legal rule and its opposite can be efficient because neither affected party can induce the other to waive the initially assigned rights, then either seems to be wealth maximizing.
    • Steven Kelman, Making public policy: A hopeful view of American government. Basic Books, 1987. p. 145

"Cost-benefit analysis: an ethical critique," 1981[edit]

Steven Kelman, "Cost-benefit analysis: an ethical critique." Regulation 5 (1981): 33-40.

  • At the broadest and vaguest level, cost-benefit analysis may be regarded simply as systematic thinking about decision-making. Who can oppose, economists sometimes ask, efforts to think in a systematic way about the consequences of different courses of action? The alternative, it would appear, is unexamined decision-making. But defining cost-benefit analysis so simply leaves it with few implications for actual regulatory decisionmaking.
    • p. 33
  • My own judgement is that modest efforts to assess levels of benefits and costs are justified, although I do not believe that government agencies ought to sponsor efforts to put dollar prices on non-market things. I also do not believe that the cry for more cost-benefit analysis in regulation is, on the whole, justified. If regulatory officials were so insensitive about regulatory costs that they did not provide acceptable raw material for deliberative judgments (even if not of a strictly cost-benefit nature), my conclusion might be different. But a good deal of research into costs and benefits already occurs-actually, far more in the U.S. regulatory process than in that of any other industrial society. The danger now would seem to come more from the other side.
    • p. 40

"Public management needs help!," 2005[edit]

Steven Kelman, "Public management needs help!." Academy of Management Journal 48.6 (2005), p. 967-969.

  • Much of the pioneering work in organization theory was written about public organizations, or with public organizations in mind. When Weber wrote about bureaucracy, he was thinking of the Prussian civil service. Philip Selznick began his scholarly career writing about the New Deal Tennessee Valley Authority in TVA and the Grass Roots (1953). Herbert Simon’s first published article (1937) was on municipal government performance measurement, and Simon also coauthored early in his career a book called Public Administration (1950) and a number of papers (e.g., Simon, 1953) published in Public Administration Review. Michel Crozier’s classic, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon (1954), was about two government organizations in France.
    • p. 967
  • As the field of organization studies has grown enormously over the last decades, the attention the field pays to public organizations and public policy problems has withered. This despite the fact that the public sector, as a percentage of GNP, is much larger now than it was when these classics were written.
This change reflects larger social trends. Since the 1970s, the salary gap between government and industry for professional and managerial work has dramatically increased (Donahue, 2005). For much of this period, business was culturally “hot” as a place of both glamor and excitement. Reflecting these larger trends, business schools have grown enormously, so that today the overwhelming majority of scholars studying organizations work in that environment.
  • p. 967
During this same period, research about public organizations became ghettoized, the province of a traditional field called “public administration” and a new one calling itself “public management” arising in connection with establishment of public policy degree programs at a number of universities in the 1970s and 1980s. Although there are real differences in research focus, methods, and teaching orientation between these two fields, they share common shortcomings. They are relatively small compared with the much larger domain of business-school-based organization studies.
  • p. 967

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