Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Public Choice Approach Theory - Public Administration

The most unique quality of Public Choice Approach Theory is that it was propounded by the scholars of the decade of 1960's of Economics discipline.

Public Choice Approach Theory strictly opposes the bureaucratic model of administration. Before proceeding further in order to understand what this theory says you all should first read the view point of Vincent Ostrom, who is a supporter and protagonist of the Public Choice Approach theory-

" Perfection in the hierarchical ordering of a professionally trained public service accountable to a single centre of power will reduce the capability of a larger administrative system to respond to diverse preferences among citizens for many different public goods and services and cope with diverse environmental conditions."

" A variety of different organizational arrangements can be used to provide different public goods and services. Such organizations can be coordinated through various multi-organizational arrangements..."

So in brief what Vincent Ostrom says regarding Public Choice Approach Theory is as follows - 

1. It opposes bureaucracy declaring it as anti bureaucratic.

2. It is in favour of decentralization and propounds the idea of the participation of the masses in the Public Administration.

3. It believes in the concept of Institutional Pluralism.

4. It says decision making process should be democratic.

Public Choice Approach theory opposes the below facts - 

1. Politics Administration Dichotomy.

2. Hierarchical Ordering of the employees in the organisation.  

3. Mono Centric Administration

In simpler words PCA theory states that when the size of the functional field of the Government of providing goods and services to the public increases the quality and operational efficiency of the bureaucracy decreases as it lacks the necessary skills and technical expertise required in order to complete the particular job. Bureaucrats are Generalists that is they are experts in managing things and hence can not be expected to perform well when it comes to perform specific technical jobs. Also the centralisation of power in the hands of the bureaucracy tends to make them self-centred. Hegemony of bureaucracy seeks to promote self aggrandizement and unnecessarily inflate Government.

So the Public Choice Approach theory says that if MARKET FORCES are allowed to operate freely, than there are full chances that they will function with much higher efficiency than the Government. Presence of market forces will reduce the unnecessarily inflated size of the Government/Bureaucracy and make the delivery of goods and services to the customers more transparent, cost-effective, simpler and economical.

Views of one more noted Economist William Arthur Niskanen are important to be looked at. Niskanen said that whatever development that have taken place in the field of Public Administration till date have been contributed by authors and scholars of the field of Political Science, Administrative Science, Sociologist etc. - but this is the first time, that a theory has been presented in the field of Public Administration by economists. He said that in Government run markets there are mainly two classes of people - Politicians and Bureaucrats.

Bureaucrats are traditionally recognized for there work of budget maximisation and Politicians have always been recognised as Vote Bank maximisers. So when these two classes of people perform their respective work the primary objective of serving the needs and desires of the public are ignored by bureaucrats and politicians. Both of them when formulate there plans, programmes and policies they normally take stands which are personally beneficial to them and there families. Populist measure taken by them tend to ignore the society as a whole and the primary objective for which they are elected is ignored.

So this theory states that maximum functions of the Government should be transferred to the private sector as private sector is governed by market forces. These market forces induce a feeling of competitiveness which is ultimately beneficial to the public.

In India proponents of Public Choice Theory are of the view that all Public Distribution Schemes that are being run by the Government should be immediately stopped as they have become a platform for excessive corruption. The people on which these schemes are targeted i.e. the targeted beneficiaries never get there full advantages and most of the funds that are earmarked for them are exploited through alternate channels.

Criticism - This concept of Public Choice Approach theory has been widely criticized by noted authors and scholars on its inability to cope up with on field situations and circumstances. They are of the view that Public Choice Approach theory is extreme in its opinion and hence unrealistic.


  1. Who introduced public choice theory? Niskanen or ostram?

  2. In awasthi and maheshwari book it has given Niskanen but in TMH publication ostram is the introducer of Public choice theory.which one is right?

    1. PCA has been chiefly propounded by William Niskanen (1971) and Vincent Ostrom (1974).

  3. Introduced by vincent ostram and propounded by the views of Niskanen

  4. So which one do we go for Niskanen or Ostrom ?

  5. Thank u so much i understood it.


Add a Comment or Query