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New book on public services launched at LSE

Professor Julian Le Grand launched his new book on public services at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) yesterday on Tuesday 23 September.

Motivation, Agency and Public Policy: of knights and knaves, pawns and queens, published by Oxford University Press on 23 September, has two main themes: Does the public service ethos exist through self-interest or selflessness; and competition and choice - does it work?

Can we rely on the public service ethos to deliver high quality public services? Are professionals such as doctors and teachers really public-spirited altruists - knights - or self-interested egoists - knaves? And how should the recipients of those services, patients, parents and pupils, be treated? As passive recipients - pawns - or as active consumers - queens?

This book offers answers to these questions. It argues that the original welfare state was designed on the assumptions that those who worked within it were basically altruists or knights and that the beneficiaries were passive recipients or pawns. In consequence services were often of low quality, delivered in a patronising fashion and inequitable in outcome. However, services designed on an opposite set of assumptions - that public service professionals are knaves and that users should be queens - also face problems: exploitation by unscrupulous professionals, and over-use by demanding consumers, especially middle class ones.

The book draws on evidence from Britain and abroad to show that, in fact, public policies designed on the basis that professionals are a mixture of knight and knave and recipients a mixture of pawn and queen deliver better quality and greater social justice than policies based on more simplistic assumptions about motivation and agency. In particular, contrary to popular mythology, the book shows that policies that offer choice and competition within public services such as education and health care can deliver both excellence and equity. And policies aimed at building up individual assets and wealth ownership can empower the poor and powerless more effectively than those aimed simply at bolstering their current income.

In the light of the analysis, the book evaluates recent government policies in health services, education, social security and taxation. Specifically, it examines some policy reforms with which the author has been closely associated (and which in some cases he actually originated): the baby bond or child trust fund, internal or quasi-markets in education and health, government matching grants for savings for old age, and an NHS tax.


For more information, contact Jessica Winterstein, LSE Press Office, on 020 7955 7060 or email j.winterstein@lse.ac.uk| 


Julian Le Grand is the Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy and head of LSE's Social Policy Department. With a special research interest in health and community care, he is also a commissioner on the Commission for Health Improvement. From Monday 6 October 2003 he will be policy strategy adviser on public service reform to 10 Downing Street.

He co-edited the book Understanding Social Exclusion (OUP, 2002) with LSE's John Hills and David Piachaud, and has written frequently for health service and other public service publications. He will be one of the main speakers at a Richard Titmuss commemorative conference at LSE on Tuesday 23 September.

24 September 2003