I have recently had cause to reread CentreForum’s Your Choice: how to get better public services, published back in the summer. Don’t ask. It’s for a thing.
The resonance between the sorts of prescriptions that emerge from Queen Anne’s Gate and the policy prescriptions within the subsequent Open Public Services white paper is all too evident. Equally obvious is the rather thin intellectual base for many of these ideas. As a piece of think tank advocacy Your Choice isn’t attempting to be a rigorous academic study, seeking to provide a balanced review of the ideas under consideration. But it is rather too evident that it draws its intellectual authority from a relatively shallow well comprising previous CentreForum publications, publications elsewhere by CentreForum members, and publications from the axis of management consultants and other organisations with a vested interest in promoting its agenda. The principal credible contemporary academic work cited is by colleagues at the Centre for Market and Public Organisation and that is hardly unambiguous in its support.
But my main concern here isn’t really the problematic role of think tanks peddling flaky ideas into the policy process. I blogged about that a while ago. I have a broader concern – consensus and credibility. [Read more...]