Public Services and the Missed Values of (Non)Communication

Public Services and the Missed Values of (Non)Communication

Mirko Pečarič (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8482-7.ch013
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Citizens' interactions are at the center of open governments. When the latter use open structures and open processes to foster (technical) collaboration, citizens' wellbeing can be improved by observing what citizens (do not) publicly write about or search for. This chapter tries to compare the wellbeing and quality of life (the older terms are public value or solidarity) with public goods inside and outside of public services. This relationship can be achieved when people debate and governments listen to diverse alternatives. To test this relationship, the Google Trends application was used. Trends show that satisfied people do not write about effective, efficient, legal, and ethical things, so a temporary conclusion needed for further investigation is that the government's success in a certain field is present when people do not talk (on a large scale) about matters or topics in that field. Governments should, therefore, listen to or read what people (do not) say or write.
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People must not only abide administrative law that affects everyone from the cradle to the grave but also other similar activities touch our daily lives, although the latter does not use public power on the same level. The main focus in this chapter will be given on activities related to the birth of children, to their care in kindergartens, to primary and secondary schools (in some countries also to higher education), on the research, basic health and social care, public urban and railway transport, water supply and sewerage, on public roads and other public infrastructure. Also, the private sector depends on these activities as much as the public one. These activities are named public services, and form the spine of all modern countries, which addresses not only the national social model but also the infrastructure for economic prosperity. Public services (within the European Union named as the Services of General Economic Interest or SGEIs1) are activities whose supplier is entrusted by a public authority with specific missions of general interest. These services, therefore, include non-economic and economic services like education, healthcare, social care or water, energy, public transport, postal services, telecommunications, energy and so on. Although these activities do not involve a direct element of public power (iure imperii), we face them in a much more numerical and everyday sense (as soon as we wake up in the morning, we turn on the light, open water, see if there is any mail, etc.) than with the authoritative tasks of the state. Public services of now seen not only as services to protect the national interest but also as vital parts of the European integration project (Szyszczak, Davies, Andenæs, & Bekkedal, 2013), although the change of the State’s role from providing services to providing only the legal framework and supervising the provision of services represents not only an apparent loss of powers (Nistor, 2013) but also of accountability that became more dispersed due to numerous public service providers. Despite these changes, public services still present the characteristics of market failure which cannot deliver services to customers in an affordable manner, and it is of utmost importance to have methods by which such activities can be managed and controlled. The information revolution combined with transparency can empower public service users and/or citizens to demand accountability from public services, but there must be present a method or a framework that can influence public services’ performance. Despite the availability of some very simple but potentially effective tools there is a lack of systemic and effective quality control, accountability and responsibility for high-quality service delivery (Bauby & Similie, 2010); public service providers must be accountable to users and taxpayers for the quality of service and the outcomes they achieve (HM Government, 2014), and one way by which public services can work better is when they are designed and delivered in partnership with citizens in order to harness their interest, energies, expertise and ambitions (OECD, 2011). Public services should be − given the reason for whom they are established and provided in the first place − more accountable to users through deliberation, participation or even implementation, rather than through classic bureaucratic accountability to central government, which is of limited value due to the still persistent “red tape” principle that still dominates in this sphere. The government can promote accountability by increasing transparency and allocation of information about public services, so users can judge the implementation and successfulness of public service providers to make more informed decisions. “Accountability can be explanatory (that is a person is called on to explain their conduct or proposals) and it may also entail the imposition of sanctions” (Sueur, Sunkin, & Murkens, 2016, p. 285). In this chapter, a practical way will be examined in which accountability can be achieved through explanation, not by public service providers or public servants, but by public service users and/or citizens, who can give facts about ways on which some public service is done or experienced. The beauty of the presented approach is in its free availability to everyone, who is interested in the people’s talks. In the next two sections arguments are given for users’ voices to assure the legitimacy of public services in a similar way the public power activity is achieved, that is by the right of expression or defense within a procedure. People's voices or the expressions of opinions will be tested within a relationship between the rule of law index vis-à-vis debate on the public services, public goods and public utilities to be able to reach a conclusion that can be per se contra-intuitive, but still very practical. Everyone can use it immediately.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Google Trends: A public web facility of Google Inc., based on Google Search, that shows how often a particular search term is entered relative to the total search volume across various regions of the world, and in various languages.

Economic Public Services: Economic public services provide material public goods as products and services whose permanent and uninterrupted production in the public interest is provided by the state, the municipality or other local community in order to meet public needs when and insofar as they cannot be (or not to wider extent and with affordable price) provided on the market.

Public Good: A wide concept into which can be put different goods as long as they fulfil two classical conditions of non-excludability and non-rivalry. The public good is good or service that allows the implementation of public interest. It is also good for shared use, it is a thing or good that is publicly owned, it is a thing or good that guarantees equal access. If we want to establish the essence of the public good, we must therefore proceed from the implementation of public interest, shared use, public property and guaranteed equal access.

Public Power: An authoritative exercise of public competences in the name of public interest; the characteristic of legal relationships in which the competent authority, without negotiation and agreement with the addressee of the norm, unilaterally takes a decision on the basis of the law and its borders.

Public Interest: Activities that are in favor of a group of people, such as the prevention of danger to life and human health, ensuring public order and peace, preventing a threat to public security or property of greater value. In addition to the aforementioned, the public interest is a well-founded interest, which was registered in a democratic process, where the interests of the majority of citizens were harmonized.

Public utilities: They are basic public facilities and objects that allow economic activity within a particular community; they are basic installations that form the basis for the operation of the public system.

Non-Economic (Social) Public Services: Non-commercial public services that provide through education, science, culture, sports, health, social care, disability insurance and other non-economic (social) activities the intangible public goods.

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