Polycentricity and Local Public Economies
[Volume 2] March 23, 1999
Polycentricity and Local Public Economies:
Readings from the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis
Edited by Michael D. McGinnis

Series Foreword
Michael D. McGinnis

Michael D. McGinnis

Part I. Conceptual Foundations of Institutional Analysis

1. The Organization of Government in Metropolitan Areas: A Theoretical Inquiry {To Reference}
Vincent Ostrom, Charles M. Tiebout, and Robert Warren

2. Polycentricity (Part 1){To Reference}
Vincent Ostrom

3. Public Goods and Public Choices {To Reference}
Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom

Part II. Frameworks for the Study of Public Economies

4. A Behavioral Approach to the Study of Intergovernmental Relations {To Reference}
Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom

5. Polycentricity (Part 2) {To Reference}
Vincent Ostrom

6. Metropolitan Reform: Propositions Derived from Two Traditions {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom

Part III. Empirical Research on Police Services

7. Why Do We Need Multiple Indicators of Public Service Outputs? {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom

8. Does Local Community Control of Police Make a Difference? Some Preliminary Findings {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom and Gordon P. Whitaker

9. Community Control and Governmental Responsiveness: The Case of Police in Black Neighborhoods {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom and Gordon P. Whitaker

10. Size and Performance in a Federal System {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom

Part IV. Implications for Metropolitan Governance

11. Defining and Measuring Structural Variations in Interorganizational Arrangements {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom, Roger B. Parks, and Gordon P. Whitaker

12. Neither Gargantua Nor the Land of Lilliputs: Conjectures on Mixed Systems of Metropolitan Organization {To Reference}
Elinor Ostrom and Roger B. Parks

13. Citizen Voice and Public Entrepreneurship: The Organizational Dynamic of a Complex Metropolitan County {To Reference}
Ronald J. Oakerson and Roger B. Parks

14. Fiscal, Service, and Political Impacts of Indianapolis-Marion County's Unigov {To Reference}
William Blomquist and Roger B. Parks

15. Do We Really Want to Consolidate Urban Areas? [It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again] {To Reference}
Roger B. Parks

Part V. Continuing Challenges for Research and Policy

16. Complex Models of Urban Service Systems {To Reference}
Roger B. Parks and Elinor Ostrom

17. Consumers as Coproducers of Public Services: Some Economic and Institutional Considerations {To Reference}
Roger B. Parks, Paula C. Baker, Larry L. Kiser, Ronald J. Oakerson, Elinor Ostrom, Vincent Ostrom, Stephen L. Percy, Martha Vandivort, Gordon P. Whitaker, and Rick Wilson
Suggested Further Readings
List of Contributors

  • Series Foreword: Self-Governance, Institutional Analysis, and the Workshop
  • Polycentric Governance and Development
  • Polycentricity and Local Public Economies
  • Polycentric Games and Institutions

  • Polycentricity and Local Public Economies:
    Readings from the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis


    Michael D. McGinnis

    The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis was established at Indiana University in Bloomington in 1973 to coordinate several ongoing research projects. In the process of implementing this research, Workshop faculty and students began a long (and ongoing) series of discussions about broader conceptual questions and about how to organize multidisciplinary research on institutions. This volume of readings presents an overview of the results of the research program on police services and local public economies, as well as its enduring lessons for institutional analysis and public policy.

    One basic presumption shared by the organizers of the Workshop is that theory has important ramifications for the understanding of practical policy problems. This close interaction between theoretical and empirical concerns is reflected in the basic organization of this book, which includes two distinctly different types of chapters: (1) conceptual discussions of federalism and other forms of constitutional order, and (2) empirical analyses of specific aspects of policing and other public services. Within the context of the conceptual framework developed here, even narrow analyses of seemingly mundane events can shed important new light on enduring dilemmas of governance.

    Part I of this volume consists of summary statements of basic theoretical concepts and analytical distinctions that apply to the study of institutions generally. In Part II the focus shifts to conceptual pieces that specifically address the nature of governance in metropolitan areas. Part III reports on a series of empirical studies of police performance. The papers included in Part IV outline some of the broader implications of this research tradition for the organization of local public economies as a whole. Part V concludes with two papers summarizing conceptual advances that have continuing relevance for research and policy debates.

    In some ways, this research was decades ahead of its time. More recently, scholars associated with the Workshop have documented the ability of self-governing communities to effectively manage common-pool resources (E. Ostrom, 1990; E. Ostrom, Gardner, and Walker, 1994; McGinnis, 1999a,b). These projects now encompass research sites throughout the world, but the Workshop approach to institutional analysis was developed by scholars confronting the complexities of governance in metropolitan areas in the United States. Similar themes emerge from both areas of research, especially a deep appreciation for the merits of local self-government. Perhaps it is only now, in the current policy context of devolution and decentralization, that the import of this early Workshop research can be fully appreciated. By collecting papers originally published in a wide array of outlets, this volume should help scholars reassess the legacy of these interrelated research programs on the evaluation of police services and the organization of local public economies.

    Part I. Conceptual Foundations of Institutional Analysis

    Part I includes three statements of fundamental components of the Workshop approach to institutional analysis. The obvious place to begin is with a classic 1961 American Political Science Review article, “The Organization of Government in Metropolitan Areas: A Theoretical Inquiry,” coauthored by Vincent Ostrom, Charles Tiebout, and Robert Warren. Although this article appeared in print more than ten years before the establishment of the Workshop, it was essential to include it as the opening chapter of this volume of readings. The general concept of polycentric order elucidated in this paper is one cornerstone of institutional analysis. The notion that complex systems of overlapping jurisdictions might make more sense than a single center of power was quite novel then, and it still engenders resistence from many scholars more comfortable with simple governance structures.

    The existence of multiple jurisdictions gives citizens more choices. In an earlier work, Charles Tiebout (1956) elaborated the implications of multiple jurisdictions for the ability of citizens to “vote with their feet” by moving to jurisdictions whose authorities offer a more desirable mix of public goods and services. Tiebout’s conception remains a core concept of public choice theory (Mueller, 1989). Even though the many costs associated with moving to new jurisdictions and the limited number of relevant jurisdictions may make physical movement impractical, this concept sheds light on important aspects of political economy at many levels of analysis. For example, the ability of private investors to move capital to jurisdictions with more favorable taxing policies limits the ability of political authorities to implement their desired economic policies. Lindblom (1977) decries this as a “market as prison” image, emphasizing the limitations market discipline imposes on the range of public policies that can be implemented. (If leaders impose policies that drive too many investors away, the local economy will suffer and the officials would be likely to lose the next election.) From another perspective, this market discipline may limit the implementation of redistributive policies that would slow economic growth. Under either interpretation, a similar logic applies to interactions among separate municipalities in a metropolitan area, states in a federal system, or countries competing for foreign investment.

    A polycentric order generalizes Tiebout’s “voting-with-the-feet” model by enabling individuals or communities to choose among alternative producers of public services, without having to move from one jurisdiction to another. Polycentricity is a fundamental prerequisite of self-governance, that is, the ability of groups of individuals to work out problems for themselves. A community may decide to address some common problems directly. Alternatively, they may decide what they want and contract with some other organization to supply these services, or they may decide that some issues are best left up to more encompassing units of governments or to the creation of market-like arrangements. In general, communities employ all of these options, selecting different means to achieve different ends. Without the full range of options, liberty is stunted.

    Polycentric order is also supported by considerations of efficiency. As Ostrom, Tiebout, and Warren argue, different public goods can be most efficiently produced at different scales of organization, ranging from fire protection to national defense. In a polycentric order, communities can organize the production of different kinds of public goods at different scales of aggregation.

    These authors introduce a distinction between the production of a public good or service and its provision by public authorities (or by the people themselves). Although these terms are used inter-changeably in common discourse, this distinction between production and provision is crucial to this whole body of research. Production refers to the physical processes by which a public good or service comes into existence, while provision is the process by which this product is made available to consumers. Since we are dealing with public goods or services, the relevant consumption unit is a neighborhood, community, or some other grouping of people.

    The distinction between production and provision is unfamiliar because it plays such a minor role in markets for private goods. A consumer who buys, say, a television set at an electronics store is not dealing directly with the firm that built this product. The retail store acts as intermediary between the producer and the consumer, but this store is not providing the good, in the sense used here, because the ultimate decision concerning consumption is made by the individual purchaser. Since the individual consumer is, in effect, also the provider, little is gained by making this distinction.

    For the case of public goods, however, the relationship between consumers and providers is steeped in political import. Citizens elect mayors, governors, and other officials in the clear expectation that they will make sure that the community enjoys certain public goods. Citizens will closely monitor the performance of public officials, especially with regard to tax burdens, crime rates, and other salient policy issues. If they are not satisfied, they may move elsewhere (as in Tiebout’s model), they may vote to replace the offending officials, or they may find some way to pressure officials into providing a different policy mix. They may even decide to take matters into their own hands.

    It is important to remember that groups of individuals can provide for the production of public goods themselves, without relying on the intercession of public authorities. For example, members of a housing association concerned about the poor condition of the medians of their common streets have options beyond petitioning the city for assistance. They could hire a professional groundskeeper; they could even roll up their sleeves and pick the weeds themselves. In either case, the neighborhood association is providing this public good. Political scientists and policy analysts are more familiar with an arrangement in which a public official provides for the production of some public good or service by seeing that all members of the appropriate groups receive or enjoy its benefits, and that there are sufficient resources to pay for its production. But we cannot ignore the possibility that, in some instances, groups can do all this for themselves.

    In sum, there are three types of actors involved in this process: (1) a collective consumption unit seeking some public good or service, (2) the entity that produces it, and (3) an intermediary who makes arrangements to connect producers to consumers. This intermediary may be an individual public entrepreneur or, more frequently, a government agency. In some cases, no intermediary is necessary. For example, when members of a new settlement jointly agree to dig and maintain a well for use by all, then this community has effectively fulfilled all three roles simultaneously. For analytical purposes, however, it is important to keep these distinctions in mind.

    The details of the relationship between providers and producers may not always be easily observable by members of the collective consumption unit. Government officials can select from a wide array of options to arrange for the production of public goods and services. They may sign contracts with a private vendor or another public agency to produce the public good or service, or they may prefer to incorporate the production process within the scope of their own authority.

    The important point here is that it is not necessary for a public good (or public service) to be produced by the same actors or organizations that make arrangements to provide that good or service to a community of individuals. Thus, there may not be a one-to-one correspondence between collective consumption units and provision units, or between providers and producers. Polycentricity allows considerable mixing and matching of consumption, provision, and production units operating at different scales of aggregation.

    One unfortunate consequence of the importance of this subtle distinction between production and provision is that confusion can easily arise when comparisons are made to works in which these terms are used interchangeably. The phrase “service provider” is a good case in point. In common parlance, a church group that gives homeless people a place to sleep and something to eat is a service provider, but in the technical language of polycentricity, these church groups are the producers of welfare services. Increasingly, governments provide for welfare services by contracting with nonprofit organizations. As Salamon (1995) puts it, governments and nonprofits are “partners,” with governments providing the financing and making policy decisions, but with nonprofit organizations actually doing the work. This makes government officials the service providers and nonprofit organizations the service producers, not providers.

    Another level of complexity comes from the ability of concerned citizens to form an interest group that lobbies governmental officials on their behalf. Interest organizations seek to provide certain policy outcomes for their contributors, but in this case the production of public policy is carried out by public officials (legislators, executives, or bureaucrats). In polycentric systems, individuals and communities participate in the provision and production of public services in direct and indirect ways.

    Clearly, polycentric orders are inherently complex. In its simplest form, a polycentric order must allow public officials or agencies (at various levels of a federal system) to make alternative arrangements for the provision of a public good for members of the collective consumption unit (typically a political jurisdiction of some type) while production takes place at a larger or smaller scale of aggregation, depending on which scale is most efficient for that particular good. The term “polycentric” aptly encapsulates this vision of overlapping scales of production and multiple arenas of political interaction.

    Although the word “polycentric” is cumbersome, Workshop scholars can take some comfort from the fact that it is considerably more attractive than “multinucleated political system,” an alternative mentioned in the second footnote in Ostrom, Tiebout, and Warren’s classic article, reprinted here as Chapter 1. Chapter 2 is Part 1 of “Polycentricity,” a paper originally presented by Vincent Ostrom at the American Political Science Association meeting in 1972. This conference paper was originally written as a critical review of the Ostrom, Tiebout, and Warren article ten years after its publication, but it was never published in that form. It remains the single best clarification of how polycentricity is related to several more familiar terms and concepts.

    In this paper, Vincent Ostrom emphasizes that a polycentric order should not be dismissed as a simple market analogy. Obviously, markets per se cannot be expected to result in the production or provision of public goods, since markets are designed to take advantage of the special properties associated with private goods. The whole point of a public economy is that it must include some means by which public goods are produced and provided to collective consumption units. By allowing for the existence of multiple producers of public goods as well as alternative service providers, it becomes possible to approximate the benefits of market competition. However, polycentric orders have their own inherent properties, and cannot be seen as exact analogues of private markets.

    Ostrom clarifies how his usage differs from that of Polyani, who used polycentric as a synonym for spontaneous. In the current context, it is important to realize that polycentric orders are created by those who participate in them, and they cannot be sustained as such unless the relevant actors continue to make use of their full range of alternatives. That is, if all authority and responsibility comes to be concentrated in a single political entity, then the system can no longer be described as polycentric.

    Another clarification is required, namely, that the mere existence of multiple centers of authority does not immediately convey the full connotations of the analytical term polycentric. The key point is not the number of jurisdictions, but rather the concurrence of multiple opportunities by which participants can forge or dissolve links among different collective entities. In a system composed of many political units, each of which directly produces all the public goods for its own citizens, the full potential of polycentricity would not be realized. Instead, participants must be able to pick and choose those producers and providers that are most appropriate to each specific issue at hand.

    Vincent Ostrom emphasizes that if the full potential of polycentricity is to realized, it must be grounded in mutually supportive institutional arrangements in the economic, legal, constitutional, and political realms. Markets in private goods are needed to provide incentives for efficient production, and public entrepreneurs must have some assurance that their efforts to provide goods and services to various communities are legally recognized. Perhaps the most important factor is that political coalitions must be open to change and to compromise, with political leaders focusing attention on resolving problems rather than scoring partisan victories.

    In Chapter 3, “Public Goods and Public Choices,” Vincent and Elinor Ostrom develop several analytical distinctions that recur throughout the entire corpus of Workshop research. The first distinction concerns the nature of the good as a private good, public good, toll good, or common-pool resource. The authors argue that we cannot expect the same kinds of institutional arrangements to be appropriate for all kinds of goods or services. The “market” is an efficient institution for production and allocation of private goods (within the context of the existing distribution of resources and assuming the existence of secure property rights and reliable procedures for conflict resolution). However, market mechanisms fail in predictable manners when they are applied to the production or provision of public goods, or the management of common-pool resources (see Weimer and Vining, 1989; E. Ostrom, 1990).

    The Ostroms develop the concept of a “public economy” as analogous but not identical to a market economy. They discuss several examples of complex networks of service provision and the production of public goods. They emphasize the importance of formal and informal mechanisms of conflict resolution, through which conflicts of interest and responsibility among public authorities in overlapping jurisdictions are resolved. They pay particular attention to the important matter of financing. In order for a polycentric system to operate smoothly, there must be some correspondence, however inexact, between the beneficiaries of public goods and services and those who pay for them. If this provision process runs smoothly, the private production of public goods can be made economically efficient. The key element in all this is the ability of service providers to select producers operating at the most efficient scale of production.

    Also included in this paper is a brief discussion of the concept of “coproduction.” Chapter 17 develops this concept in detail, but the basic idea behind this important concept deserves mention here. The typical relationship between producer and consumer is one of exchange. That is, the consumer does not contribute in any direct manner to the quality of the good that is produced. (There will be an indirect effect in a competitive market setting, as consumers buy from those producers who offer higher quality products for a given price level.) However, for some kinds of goods and services, those consumers who adopt a passive attitude will not receive a high quality product. The Ostroms discuss education and health as examples of coproduction: in both cases the active involvement of students or patients is essential if they are to enjoy a quality education or good health. Coproduction denotes situations when the active involvement of the consumer is a requisite input for the production of a high quality good or service.

    Coproduction is especially important in public economies. Members of a neighborhood seeking safer streets for all to enjoy would, for example, be well-advised to take an active role in monitoring activities rather than passively relying on police patrols. Polycentricity provides an ideal setting for the coproduction of public goods and services. Communities should not be expected to passively await the largesse of political authorities, but should instead take an active role in arranging for the coproduction (and coprovision) of desired public goods and services.

    This insistence on the importance of the active involvement of citizens in their own governance is one of the ways in which the Workshop approach to institutional analysis differs, at least in emphasis, from the broader community of public choice scholars (see Mitchell, 1988). Public choice is typically defined as the application of economic modes of analysis to the study of the behavior of political authorities, but institutional analysis casts a wider net. For example, although most of the same analytical presuppositions of rational choice can be applied to individuals, private corporations, and to the office-seeking actions of public authorities, it is not appropriate to assume that markets exist in all arenas of interaction (see V. Ostrom 1993, 1998).

    To a great extent, the concept of polycentricity emerges from a deep familiarity with the American political system. In Chapter 2 Vincent Ostrom shows how closely polycentricity is related to the political theory that lay behind the original design of the U.S. Constitution and especially in the defense of that Constitution in The Federalist (see V. Ostrom, 1987). This theory of limited constitutions was exemplified in the plentiful examples of self-governance by voluntary associations that Tocqueville ([1835] 1969) observed in his journey through the United States of America in the early nineteenth century. In his most recent books, Vincent Ostrom (1991, 1997) stresses that self-governance is sustainable only if communities nurture the “habits of heart and mind” that Tocqueville considered the most important contributor to the success of American democracy. Coproduction and polycentricity are modern terms that capture important aspects of Tocqueville’s insights into the proper organization of public affairs, and the Workshop approach to institutional analysis is an extended elaboration on the basic principles of the “art and science of association” that Tocqueville saw as critical to the continued success of democratic governance.

    Part II. Frameworks for the Study of Public Economies

    One of the enduring themes of Workshop research has been Vincent Ostrom’s insistence that polycentricity be considered as a viable alternative to standard notions of sovereignty. In his first major book, The Intellectual Crisis in Public Administration ([1973] 1989), he critiques the field of public administration for being dominated by a conception of centralized administration inconsistent with the foundational principles of American democracy. In particular, he contrasts the constitutional theory of the Founders with that of Woodrow Wilson, whom he identifies as the central figure in the reform tradition in the first decades of the twentieth century. This influential tradition led to a widely shared consensus on the benefits that would accrue from consolidation of metropolitan areas into single, larger units of governance. The research programs reported in this volume present a fundamental challenge to this consensus.

    In Chapter 4, “A Behavioral Approach to the Study of Intergovernmental Relations,” Vincent and Elinor Ostrom conceptualize an area of public service provision and production as an “industry,” akin to an industry in the private sector. They use examples from water supply, electric power, education, and police to illustrate complex patterns of interactions among the diverse actors involved in any single area of public services. A public industry constitutes, in effect, the polycentric order apparent in the specific contexts of public service provision and production.

    Since this article predates the establishment of the Workshop by about a decade, it serves as a useful overview of the Ostroms’ general orientation to research. They insist on the need to understand both the physical nature of the good or service being produced as well as the social, political, and economic context of its provision. In subsequent research, scholars associated with the Workshop developed a broad analytical framework based on three sets of factors that jointly contribute to the nature of institutional arrangements. This Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework highlights interactions among (1) the nature of the goods being produced, provided and consumed, (2) the content of “rules in use” in contrast to written laws and constitutions, and (3) overall attributes of the community (Kiser and E. Ostrom, 1982; McGinnis, 1999a,b). A central tenet of institutional analysis is that even detailed analyses of limited aspects of particular institutions must keep this broader range of factors in mind.

    Any public service industry necessarily involves actors with common, complementary, and conflicting interests. Patterns of conflict resolution are shaped by the overall configuration of governance. The Gargantua approach critiqued by Ostrom, Tiebout, and Warren (Chapter 1) seeks to resolve conflict by encompassing all of the parties within a single, comprehensive governance structure.

    In Chapter 5, Part 2 of “Polycentricity,” Vincent Ostrom elaborates further on the polycentric alternative for the governance of metropolitan areas. He begins by reviewing Tocqueville’s observations concerning the existence of an underlying pattern of order beneath the confusing array of governing bodies in the United States of his day. Ostrom then addresses some difficult problems of language and conceptualization. Although widely used, the phrase “the government” is both imprecise and inappropriate. Since governments are complex networks of interrelated provision units, institutional analysts need to develop more sophisticated methods of analysis. He notes that any complete picture of polycentric governance would have to include consideration of the entire configuration of relevant individuals, their organizational roles, the rules that shape their interactions, and the empirical measures of outcomes that they use to evaluate policies. In subsequent research, Workshop scholars have devised conceptual frameworks that help institutional analysts make sense of these complex relationships (see especially Kiser and Ostrom, 1982, and E. Ostrom, 1986; both reprinted in McGinnis, 1999a). For present purposes, the important point is that no one person (whether sovereign, bureaucratic official, or policy analyst) is capable of seeing the whole picture at once.

    Ostrom examines the negative consequences of fragmented authority that are most frequently decried in the policy reform literature: uneven service provision, pervasive racial segregation, increased costs, and an unequal distribution of financial burdens between suburbs and the inner city. He argues that analysts should have an open mind on these issues, and that they should use the great natural laboratories of the diverse conditions of life in metropolitan areas throughout the United States as a means to test whether polycentricity actually has these negative effects.

    Vincent’s spouse and colleague Elinor Ostrom took the leading role in the empirical evaluation of polycentricity. In Chapter 6, “Metropolitan Reform: Propositions Derived from Two Traditions,” she details an exhaustive list of propositions concerning the contrasting implications of unitary and polycentric systems, when applied to the governance of metropolitan areas. This paper sets out an ambitious research agenda that was only partially fulfilled in the research projects summarized in the remainder of this book.

    Scholars in the public administration or reform tradition emphasized the positive benefits of increasing the professionalization of public servants: more professional producers of public services could be expected to produce better public goods or services at a lower cost and with fuller concern for issues of equity and fair distribution of public resources. Since professionalization is easier to achieve in large jurisdictions, the seemingly obvious conclusion is that consolidation should lead to improved public service.

    Elinor Ostrom lays out the contrasting views of scholars associated with what she called the “political economy” tradition in this article but would now describe as “institutional analysis.” In a related work, Bish and V. Ostrom (1973) contrast the “public choice” tradition with this reform tradition. Whichever label is used, Workshop scholars stress that the nature of the good or service is a crucial intervening variable in the relationship between scale of production and citizen evaluation of agency performance. Goods or services that are most efficiently produced at small scales would be hurt by consolidation, whereas larger-scale goods might still be efficiently produced if small jurisdictions were allowed to enter into contracts with larger-scale producers. For example, a small police force might produce better service in terms of patrolling or responding to reports of crimes than a large police force, but both might rely on the same crime lab or training facilities.

    In this chapter Elinor Ostrom briefly surveys research findings that support the propositions implied by proponents of polycentric governance. The papers in Part III report on an extensive series of empirical investigations carried out by scholars associated with the Workshop that directly address these issues.

    Part III. Empirical Research on Police Services

    After all this discussion of theories and concepts we finally get to the nitty-gritty of empirical analysis. In preparing this volume of readings it proved useful, for purposes of presentation, to collect theoretical conceptualizations and empirical analyses in separate sections. However, it is important to remember that the actual process of research is one in which conceptualizations and empirical investigations develop simultaneously and interact with each other in a dynamic fashion. For example, E. Ostrom, Parks, Whitaker, and Percy (1979) summarize interactions among inputs, organizational arrangements, activities, and outputs in figures that can be seen as precursors to the Institutional Analysis and Development framework that later emerged as the organizing schema for Workshop research on common-pool resources (see Kiser and Ostrom, 1982, reprinted in McGinnis, 1999a).

    The first step in the long series of empirical research programs summarized in this section was taken during a graduate seminar on the measurement of public goods. The specific area of application was selected by the students, after the instructor (Elinor Ostrom) vetoed anything to do with water management (which had been the subject of her own dissertation). The students selected police services, and they set out to answer such questions as: What services do police forces produce? How can one measure and evaluate the relative performance of different police forces?

    None of the researchers associated with the Workshop began as experts in policing. Instead, they developed expertise in this area as a consequence of applying rigorous methods of social science to this particular area of concern. As suggested above, policing is also an area in which public jurisdictions at all levels of aggregation tend to interact in complex ways, in exactly the manner expected by scholars who think in terms of the polycentric ordering of public service industries.

    The discussions begun in this seminar continued in the form of an externally-funded “Measures Project.” Participants in this research project demonstrated a remarkable ability to make effective use of the complementary strengths of surveys, participant observation, official data, and physical measures. In Chapter 7, “Why Do We Need Multiple Indicators of Public Service Outputs?,” Elinor Ostrom summarizes the many measures used in this project. Since this paper was published later in this project (1977), it also reflects the insights gathered from the other research programs summarized in subsequent readings.

    Official police reports are notorious for being recorded so as to make police performance look good. Despite concerns about the self-serving nature of official reports, many policy studies of public service delivery rely heavily on such sources as the FBI crime index. Participants in this Workshop research team developed innovative means to measure actual conditions experienced by the public in their own neighborhoods. In regard to policing, they interviewed random samples of residents of matched neighborhoods, rode with police officers to observe activities directly, recorded calls for services, and used a variety of internal sources. In regard to lighting, rather than merely counting the number of streetlights, the project team used light meters to measure the ambient light at street level. Since this was a physical measure, values for different neighborhoods could be directly compared. The most memorable measuring instrument was a wheeled contraption called a “roughometer,” used to measure the “bumpiness” of urban streets.

    The research programs summarized in this volume were, to a great extent, inspired by matters of practical political concern. The Bloomington campus of Indiana University is located about an hour’s drive south of the state capital of Indianapolis. After several years of public debate, Indianapolis city and Marion County governments were consolidated in 1970 to form a unitary governing authority popularly known as Unigov. Here, seemingly, was a clear manifestation of the reform tradition, ready to be tested.

    There were some complications, however. This consolidation fell short of completeness because not all of the municipalities within Marion Country decided to join this consolidated government. This conjunction of countywide consolidation with local exceptions provided a unique opportunity for social scientists to make direct comparisons between the performance of police forces with small or large scales of operation. Neighborhoods in Indianapolis serviced by the Indianapolis police department were matched up with independent communities that retained their own small police departments. Since these neighborhoods and communities were similar on all other demographic factors, any differences in performance measures could be directly attributed to the difference in the size of these production units.

    In Chapter 8, “Does Local Community Control of Police Make a Difference? Some Preliminary Findings,” Elinor Ostrom and Gordon Whitaker summarize results from the study of police services in the Indianapolis metropolitan area. By comparing the performance of small and large police departments serving otherwise comparable middle-class, white neighborhoods directly adjacent to one another, it became clear that “bigger” was not necessarily “better.” Instead, citizens in small communities expressed higher satisfaction with the police than did residents of demographically similar neighborhoods serviced by a larger police force.

    It is worth noting that the researchers did not simply ask citizens to give their opinions about the police, but also asked specific questions concerning the personal experiences of individual respondents. Had they ever been stopped by the police? How were they treated by the policemen in question? Questions of this sort enabled the researchers to go beyond vague measures of citizen satisfaction.

    The issues of measurement discussed in the previous reading proved too difficult to solve in their entirety. For example, comparisons of the cost of providing services in small and large police departments were difficult to interpret, since they could be based on alternative means of allocating the expenditures of a large police force to specific neighborhoods (see Ostrom, Parks, and Whitaker, 1973). The overall findings of the Indianapolis study of police performance is reported in more detail in E. Ostrom, Baugh, Guarasci, Parks, and Whitaker (1973).

    These researchers also addressed one criticism of this initial research, namely, concern that its findings might not apply to all types of communities. In particular, it has long been recognized that relationships between police forces and residents of primarily black communities are particularly strained. In Chapter 9, “Community Control and Governmental Responsiveness: The Case of Police in Black Neighborhoods,” Elinor Ostrom and Gordon Whitaker address the question of whether African-American communities can achieve similar successes by relying on smaller police forces.

    For this project Ostrom and Whitaker compared two small independent villages in Cook County, Illinois, with three predominately black neighborhoods in the city of Chicago that were similar to these villages in demographic terms. The results resembled those of the Indianapolis study in the general conclusion that, on most measures of evaluation, residents of the villages expressed more satisfaction with police performance than did residents of the Chicago neighborhoods selected for comparison. However, in this case the difference was attenuated, since overall levels of satisfaction were lower in both contexts than was the case for the predominately white towns and neighborhoods in the Indianapolis study. Even so, the independent villages were able to provide slightly better policing services at a much lower per capita cost than was the more modern and professionalized Chicago Police Department. These differences in cost and performance evaluation stand in direct contrast to the expectations of the reform tradition.

    In Chapter 10, “Size and Performance in Federal Systems,” Elinor Ostrom summarizes the results of the next major empirical study, focused this time on St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis metropolitan area is particularly interesting for its large number of jurisdictions of widely varying sizes. This diversity enabled the researchers to select cases that differed in their racial composition (predominately white, racially mixed, and predominately black), income level, and size of police force (small, medium, and large). The larger number of cases also allowed the use of statistical methods to separate out the effects of these factors. The basic bivariate relationship between size and performance identified in the earlier studies held up for this broader context, but the strength of this relationship was weaker for predominately black communities (for much the same reason as in the Chicago study). In this analysis medium sized police forces proved to have some advantages over the smallest units, but in no instances did the largest units score the highest on measures of citizen satisfaction. The clear implication is that different scales of production are most appropriate for different aspects of the police service industry, exactly as one would expect in a polycentric order.

    Part IV. Implications for the Study of Local Public Economies

    Police services are but one aspect of the multifaceted range of public services provided or produced by local governments in the United States. Workshop scholars conducted detailed analyses of police services concurrently with broader investigations of the overall structure of metropolitan governance. Not surprisingly, the latter topic proved more difficult to master. The papers included in Part IV can only illustrate selected aspects of this multifaceted body of research; readers interested in the complete picture are encouraged to consult the Suggested Further Readings.

    Early statements of the Workshop perspective on urban political economies include Bish (1971) and Bish and V. Ostrom (1973). Bish (1971) surveys basic aspects of the public choice tradition that underlies the Workshop approach. Bish and V. Ostrom (1973) devote particular attention to transfer payments between authorities serving different-sized jurisdictions and other aspects of the financial arrangements needed to make polycentric governance work. The authors emphasize that conflicts among authorities at different levels are a natural component of such systems, and thus that conflict resolution is an important component of polycentricity.

    Much of the later work took the form of case studies, especially under the auspices of the United States Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (see ACIR 1988, 1992). Important overviews include ACIR (1987), Oakerson (1987), E. Ostrom (1983, 1997), and V. Ostrom, Bish, and E. Ostrom (1988). (This last book was originally prepared for publication by the Olivetti Foundation in Italy; see V. Ostrom, Bish, and E. Ostrom 1984.)

    A major component of Workshop research on the organization of local public economies was a survey of the nature of police service delivery in a sample of eighty Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas. This study investigated several measures of the networks of interrelationships among governmental authorities from different jurisdictions. This project began to explore the benefits (and the difficulties) of policing as a multilevel service industry. E. Ostrom, Parks, and Whitaker (1978) is a book-length treatment of this research project; a shorter overview was prepared as a report for the National Science Foundation (E. Ostrom, Parks, and Whitaker, 1977). The natural way in which the original police studies grew into this larger statistical project is best illustrated in Ostrom and Parks (1973), which combines brief discussions of a few matched case studies (including Indianapolis) with preliminary analysis of comparative measures of citizen evaluation of police performance in communities and departments of varying sizes.

    Chapter 11, “Defining and Measuring Structural Variations in Interorganizational Arrangements,” by Elinor Ostrom, Roger B. Parks, and Gordon P. Whitaker, gives a sample of the type of research conducted in this project. The authors discuss the characteristics of the case of Fayetteville, North Carolina, in some detail, and briefly compare it to two other metropolitan areas. They define several measures of the overall structure of the police service industry. In effect, they interpret this public service industry as a network or system and apply aggregate measures to these conglomerations as a whole. Multiplicity, for example, is measured by the number of alternative producers for a particular service, whereas fragmentation refers to the number of consumption units in a given metropolitan area. As discussed earlier, there is no reason to expect a one-to-one correspondence in these two measures under conditions of polycentricity. The authors use a “service structure matrix” to graphically illustrate the complex relationships between consumption units and means of production. These examples of the diverse ways in which public officials in this one metropolitan area have arranged for the production of the full range of police services should bring some concreteness to the abstractions developed in previous chapters of this book.

    In this project, attention shifted away from the evaluation of performance to focus instead on descriptive statistics applied to the networks of police service provision and production as found in U.S. metropolitan areas. Unfortunately, the remarkable diversity of modes of institutional arrangements that were identified in this study defy simple description. The capacity of self-governing communities to devise polycentric orders presents a daunting analytical challenge to anyone seeking to understand their properties and consequences.

    One effort to bring the power of statistical analysis to bear on these issues is illustrated in Chapter 12, “Neither Gargantua Nor the Land of Lilliputs: Conjectures on Mixed Systems of Metropolitan Organization,” an unpublished convention paper by Elinor Ostrom and Roger Parks. (Similar findings are discussed in Parks, 1985, and Parks and E. Ostrom, 1984.) The authors use data on activities of police forces of various sizes from the sample of eighty metropolitan areas to approximate the shape of the production possibility frontier for different-sized departments (see also Chapter 16). They then separate the cases into those with larger or smaller than average values of the multiplicity and autonomy measures of the overall organization of that metropolitan area. They conclude that the most efficient metropolitan systems combine the production of some services by large-scale police agencies with the production of immediate response services by smaller departments.

    This paper ends with a suggestive comparison of the historical development of governance structures that might occur in two hypothetical scenarios. Whether the initial state is one of complete consolidation or total fragmentation, they expect the ultimate result would be similar, namely, a complex arrangement in which the production and provision of public services occurs simultaneously at multiple scales of aggregation. Officials in a consolidated region are likely to discover that some matters are best delegated to smaller scale organizations, whereas managers of initially small jurisdictions are likely to establish institutions operating at a larger scale that can best deal with matters of common concern. This discussion suggests that polycentricity may emerge naturally, provided communities and their agents are given the opportunity to change the scale of their operations when they feel it is appropriate.

    The next two chapters evaluate how similar processes of historical development have worked out in practice. In Chapter 13, “Citizen Voice and Public Entrepreneurship: The Organizational Dynamic of a Complex Metropolitan County,” Roger Parks and Ronald Oakerson examine the overall structure of public service provision and production in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The mode of research used here is more informal than was the case in the earlier selections. Since it proved difficult to define summary measures of overall structures or networks of agency interactions, case studies were a more appropriate means to address these research questions. This particular paper is supplemented by a similar study applied to the Pittsburgh metropolitan area (Parks and Oakerson, 1993). In both articles, the authors show that public officials of different jurisdictions are able to work together in a remarkably smooth fashion. (For a similar conclusion with reference to relations among agencies involving in policing in the St. Louis metropolitan area, see McDavid, 1974.)

    In the paper included here, Oakerson and Parks place this capacity within a broader framework. They examine the extent to which bureaucratic officials can be treated as entrepreneurs providing a service to their customers. They draw on Tiebout’s (1956) model of voting with the feet, making explicit how polycentricity goes beyond that confining concept. Citizens’ capacity to voice their concerns alleviates any need to explicitly move to new jurisdictions, provided that public officials have the right incentives to provide needed services to their communities. They also note that public entrepreneurs must find some way to coordinate their actions, if they are to effectively address problems of wider concern.

    In a related paper, Oakerson and Parks (1989) question the common perception that local governments are merely “creatures of the state,” established at the discretion of state governments. They point out that nearly all local governing authorities have been initiated by the actions of local people. Far from being static and uninteresting, the boundaries of local jurisdictions change as a response to citizen action. Revisions in existing jurisdictions and creation of new municipalities all take place within a broader overarching system of rules and procedures. Interactions between citizens and public authorities are more dynamic than might be expected by the use of the term “constitutional.” Complex local economies are the norm, not the exception. In sum, these authors draw upon a detailed understanding of the diversity of local governing arrangements in United States to reinforce arguments discussed earlier about the centrality of polycentric order to democratic governance.

    In Chapter 14, “Fiscal, Service, and Political Impacts of Indianapolis-Marion County’s Unigov,” William Blomquist and Roger Parks remind us that the organization and reorganization of local governance is an inherently political process. In their re-examination of the Unigov consolidation move that first inspired much of the research reported in this volume, they conclude that this reform was less comprehensive than is commonly believed. So many different administrative units continued to exist within Marion County that Unigov may best be interpreted as a political slogan, rather than an accurate representation of the structure of this local public economy. They also suggest purely political reasons for this reform effort. By incorporating suburban voters into city elections, Unigov has had the effect of perpetuating the control of the Republican party over elected offices in the combined city-county administration (see also Blomquist and Parks, 1995).

    However one interprets the political fallout from the Unigov reform, it remains clear that police departments in smaller jurisdictions continue to have significant advantages over the larger Indianapolis police department. In Chapter 15, “Do We Really Want to Consolidate Urban Areas? [It’s Like Deja Vu All Over Again],” Roger Parks briefly reports on a reexamination of this issue. The title of this paper, taken from the June 1995 edition of the Workshop newsletter Polycentric Circles, refers back to one of the initial research reports on the Indianapolis police study (Ostrom, Parks, and Whitaker, 1973). The tables included in this paper clearly demonstrate that citizens of smaller communities continue to express higher levels of satisfaction with the performance of their police forces than do citizens of comparable neighborhoods in Indianapolis. In sum, the findings of research originally conducted in the 1970s still hold true today.

    Part V. Implications for Research and Policy

    Not everyone is convinced that polycentricity is such a good thing. Some scholars still argue that consolidated government has significant advantages over fragmented governance arrangements. For example, in their systematic comparison of the (fragmented) Louisville and (consolidated) Lexington metropolitan areas, Lyons and Lowery (1989: 537) find that citizens in Louisville are, counter to the supposedly positive benefits of polycentricity, not very well-informed about the “scope and nature of their service packages.” They also fail to find any consistent difference between measures of citizen satisfaction of agency performance in these two metropolitan areas. (See also Lyons et al. 1992.)

    Despite initial appearances, these results do not directly contradict the earlier findings reported by scholars associated with the Workshop. After all, the latter focused specifically on public evaluation of police performance, whereas Lyons and Lowery paint on a broader canvas that encompasses a wide range of public services. Furthermore, there may be a potential common ground between these competing schools of thought. Lyons and Lowery (1989: 541-542) conclude that it is wrong to presume that consolidated governments “present individuals living in all areas and neighborhoods with a uniform tax-service package tailored to the median-voter preference of the entire urban population.” Their analysis demonstrates that consolidated governments are capable of providing differentiated levels of service to different communities within a single large jurisdiction.

    This observation is very much in line with the spirit of polycentricity, which acknowledges that integrating multiple scales of service provision and production is the key to increased levels of citizen satisfaction. A polycentric system cannot be completely fragmented, for there remain some services for which higher levels of aggregation are most appropriate.

    Part of the problem may be that the contrast between polycentricity and consolidation has been overdrawn. A call for establishment of a polycentric order cannot be reduced to the slogan “small is beautiful.” However, because of the widespread consensus on the benefits of consolidation that was current in the 1970s, scholars associated with the Workshop may have placed more emphasis on the benefits of smaller-scale agencies than would have been the case otherwise. In today’s climate of decentralization and devolution of responsibilities to smaller units of government, advocates of polycentric order find it necessary to insist on the necessary role played by larger-scale units! Despite this change in the overall framing of contemporary policy debates, the core ideas of polycentricity have remained the same.

    Scholars associated with the Workshop continue to pursue studies of police services and other aspects of local public economies. For example, the Indianapolis police department has commissioned surveys of citizen evaluations that have been implemented by faculty and students affiliated with the Workshop and with the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at the Indianapolis campus of Indiana University (Parks, Quinet, and Schmitt, 1996). Visiting scholars have completed book projects while spending time at the Workshop. Books by Schneider (1989) and Stein (1990) are particularly noteworthy. These works connect to issues of major concern in the broader research community on urban politics, especially the deleterious effects of competition among municipalities to attract business investment. Stein, in particular, has been active in Houston, advising community leaders to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities inherent in polycentricity.

    Although research on local public economies continues to be an active part of the Workshop tradition, the single most dominant focus in recent years has been on the study of common-pool resources in countries throughout the world (E. Ostrom, 1990; McGinnis, 1999a,b). The range of local governance structures investigated by scholars associated with the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis is equally broad-ranging, including Africa (Wunsch and Olowu, 1995), Canada (Bish, 1987, 1996; Sproule-Jones, 1993), Italy (Sabetti, 1984, 1998), the Netherlands (Toonen, 1987), Nigeria (Olowu, 1990), and Scandinavia (Bogason, 1996). Still, no single book on metropolitan governance managed to capture the attention of the scholarly and policy-making communities in quite the same way that Elinor Ostrom’s book Governing the Commons (1990) encapsulated later research on the management of common-pool resources. Several contributing factors deserve mention.

    First, working with complexity is never as appealing as simplicity. The policy issues of police forces turned out to be very complex and difficult to summarize. Books and papers from the later parts of these research programs show evident signs of the difficulties these scholars experienced in trying to come to grips with the complexity of polycentric governance of metropolitan areas.

    Second, Workshop scholars have always been reluctant to “blow their own horn,” so to speak, preferring instead to produce a steady stream of research results. This attitude stands as a refreshing contrast to the all-too-frequent tendency of research institutes or think tanks to trumpet their accomplishments. However, when it came time to sum it all up, under conditions of overwhelming complexity, the researchers were unable to do so in a sufficiently compelling manner. In collecting the papers for this volume, I have benefitted greatly from the clarity of hindsight, as well as my own personal distance from these research programs.

    A third important factor is that two of the major players, Vincent and Elinor Ostrom, eventually moved on to other research projects. Both had begun their professional careers with research on groundwater or natural resources, and Elinor Ostrom’s later research, in particular, came to focus on a myriad of issues related to resource management.

    In many ways, the study of the management of common-pool resources turned out to be a more productive empirical focus for exploration of the implications of polycentricity and self-governance. Anyone evaluating police performance in urban areas can scarcely avoid emotion-laden controversies over race relations and welfare policy. Also, one prominent issue concerns the appropriate role for the national government in the fight against urban blight. Needless to say, the management of fisheries, irrigation systems, and most common-pool resources typically evokes a considerably lower level of ideological salience. Furthermore, these resources are, in many cases, physically remote from urban centers or national capitals. In these more isolated communities, it is easier to identify the reasons why some communities manage to solve their own problems while other communities flounder or fail.

    Perhaps the most fundamental reason, however, concerns the theme of the importance of local solutions to complex policy problems that recurs throughout the entire corpus of Workshop research. This attitude did not comport well with the prevailing inclination towards large-scale governmental intervention throughout society and in nearly all sectors of the economy. The relevant policy-making communities are now more open to a wider range of alternative approaches, partially as a response to the disappointing record of national policy initiatives. In short, the contrast between these two views of governance has taken on more prominence in contemporary debates over public policy. This volume of readings is intended as a contribution to these ongoing debates, and as a spur towards more rigorous evaluation of the consequences of alternative institutional arrangements.

    This volume concludes with two papers that present continuing challenges for research and policy. In Chapter 16, “Complex Models of Urban Service Systems,” Roger Parks and Elinor Ostrom stretch the standard mode of neoclassical economic theory to cover the behavior of public service producers. They argue that public bureaus, unlike firms, must be judged on multiple dimensions of outputs. That is, there is no single criterion equivalent to profits upon which bureau performance can be judged. They suggest that bureau managers might be modeled as if they maximize a two-component utility function that combines a measure of net community benefits (what they call the “benefits residuum”) and personal gains in terms of statue or budgetary discretion (measured by the number of specialized personnel in that agency). Managers of different bureaus would place different relative weights on these two considerations. For example, local service producers who actually reside in the area might put more emphasis on the net community benefits, since they themselves would share in these benefits.

    In this way they generalize Niskanen’s (1971) well-known model of bureau managers as budget-maximizers. Competitive markets exert a strong selective pressure on firms that do not maximize their profits, but no similarly stringent selection process can be said to operate in the public sector. However, Parks and Ostrom argue that if a large number of alternative service producers are available for a given public industry (or if entry is relatively easy), then quasi-market competition can be said to exist. Under conditions of high multiplicity of service producers, bureau managers will put more weight on net community benefits as opposed to personal gain in those local public economies characterized by high values of multiplicity (as defined in earlier works also included in this volume). In effect, then, the existence of multiple service producers can closely approximate the positive benefits of competitive markets, as suggested in the classic APSR article leading off this set of readings.

    This paper stands as a challenge to future researchers. Workshop scholars have made important contributions toward expanding the scope of game theory (McGinnis, 1999a). For example, chapters in Kaufmann, Majone, and Ostrom (1986) explore alternative approaches to the formal analysis of rational behavior in the context of hierarchies or networks of interaction. Is it possible to represent the behavior of public services producers and providers as rational agents pursuing multiple objectives, in a way that also takes account of the complex interrelationships among different public agencies and private organizations? This remains an open question.

    Given the fundamentally collaborative nature of the research programs summarized in this volume, it seems particularly appropriate to conclude with an article written by ten coauthors. In Chapter 17, “Consumers as Coproducers of Public Services: Some Economic and Institutional Considerations,” this team of Workshop scholars emphasizes that certain public services (especially health, education, public safety) should be considered not as products produced by public authorities or professionals (physicians, teachers, police) but rather as the result of a process of interaction among these authorities or experts and the people themselves. The coauthors were participants in an informal seminar addressing citizen participation in community affairs. Similar interactions between faculty and students recur throughout the history of the Workshop, where instruction of graduate students is seen as a continual process of the coproduction of scholarly knowledge.

    Coproduction has a close affinity to self-governance, and its importance for the evaluation of public policy deserves to be more widely appreciated. (That coproduction is equally important for development throughout the world is argued in Lam 1996 and E. Ostrom 1996, both reprinted in McGinnis 1999b.) Unfortunately, as this paper demonstrates, analyses of coproduction may require the use of more complicated modes of formal analysis than is the case for single-source production. In this particular paper, the authors specify two forms of public goods production. One form is the standard sense in which “regular” producers exchange goods or services for monetary remuneration; the other is “consumer producers” in which citizen-customers directly participate in the production process. They use simple diagrams to illustrate situations in which tradeoffs between these two kinds of production are useful. In some cases each form of production can be directly substituted for the other, but the more interesting cases are ones in which both forms of production interact in an interdependent manner.

    Workshop scholars have published several other papers related to coproduction. Whitaker (1980) makes the important point that widespread use of the term “service delivery” conveys the misleading impression that the public must adopt an attitude of passive reception of goods and services produced by professional experts. Citizens can directly participate in the production of public services, and he emphasizes the extent to which such participation is crucial for the survival of a democratic, self-governing people. Voting and forming interest groups to lobby legislators may be important forms of political action, but if that is all we think of as political participation, then we are overlooking the important ways in which people can directly contribute to their own betterment. Sharp (1980) emphasizes the participatory attitude that the term coproduction conveys. Citizens of a democratic society need access to information that enables them to evaluate the performance of public officials, but citizens also need to actively engage in their own governance. She also argues that public officials need to see their role as creating the circumstances that encourage citizen participation, and not just as providing public services in exchange for votes. Officials need to nurture citizen’s capacity for self-governance and their experience at coproduction.

    Many public officials have come to appreciate the benefits of actively involving communities in their own governance. For example, police departments throughout the country have implemented policies of “community policing” that reduce the distance between police officers and community members by encouraging informal contacts, removing patrolmen from their cars, and supporting community efforts to monitor and report suspicious behavior in their neighborhoods. At least some police officials realize that the public good of neighborhood safety is coproduced by communities and police acting together.

    One prominent example of coproduction is the patrol-intensive and community-friendly “production strategy” that tends to be pursued by smaller police forces, primarily out of necessity. The long series of research programs summarized above demonstrated the relative effectiveness of this production strategy (see especially E. Ostrom, Baugh, Guarasci, Parks, and Whitaker, 1973). Community policing can be seen as an effort of large police forces to mimic the behavior of small forces, in order to capitalize on the many advantages of this production strategy. However, the results reported by Roger Parks in Chapter 15 of this volume demonstrate that this mimicry strategy has been less than completely successful, at least initially. Despite implementation of a community policing program in 1992, the Indianapolis police force still scored lower on measures of overall citizen satisfaction than did the smaller police forces servicing the nonconsolidated communities.

    The conclusions and the methods of the interrelated research programs on the organization of local public economies in metropolitan areas of the United States continue to shape the Workshop approach to institutional analysis (see McGinnis, 1999a,b). The methodological legacy of these metropolitan studies is a unique combination of insistence on scientific rigor and policy relevance, openness to multiple techniques of empirical and formal analysis, and sensitivity to nested levels of analysis.

    The crux of this contribution is succinctly summarized in the following comment from Roger Parks, who has been associated with the Workshop from the very beginning, first as a graduate student and later as a faculty member at Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

    The Workshop evolved from a collaboration among Elinor and Vincent Ostrom and their students that began in the late 60s in a small suite of offices in IU’s Woodburn Hall. Although not formally designated as an Indiana University Research Center until 1973, most of the elements of the Workshop were in place by 1970. These included a strong commitment to theory-grounded empirical research, the inclusion of students as full colleagues in research and publication, and a rich intellectual experience anchored around regular colloquia where ideas were tabled and debated vigorously. The early Workshop built its reputation on a series of studies of police service delivery in neighborhoods served by small, medium, and large police departments. The results of these studies directly challenged the “bigger is better” philosophy of would-be police reformers in the early- and mid-70s. Not only did they demonstrate that small- and medium-sized departments performed as well or better than large departments when serving matched neighborhoods, they elucidated a logic grounded in polycentricity that explained why this outcome was to be expected. (Parks, 1998, personal communication)

    REFERENCES (to works not included in this volume)

    Bish, Robert L. 1971. The Political Economy of Metropolitan Areas. Chicago: Markam.

    ________. 1987. Local Government in British Columbia.Richmond, B.C.: Union of British Columbia Municipalities in cooperation with the University of Victoria School of Public Administration.

    ________. 1996. “Amalgamation: Is it the Solution?” Paper prepared for The Coming Revolution in Local Government conference, Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 27-29, 1996.

    Bish, Robert, and Vincent Ostrom. 1973. Understanding Urban Government: Metropolitan Reform Reconsidered. Washington: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Domestic Affairs Studies, Vol. 20.

    Blomquist, William, and Roger B. Parks. 1995. “Unigov: Local Government in Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana.” In The Government of World Cities: The Future of the Metro Model, ed. L. J. Sharpe, 77-89. New York: John Wiley.

    Bogason, Peter, editor. 1996. New Modes of Local Political Organizing: Local Government Fragmentation in Scandinavia. Commack, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

    Kaufmann, Franz-Xaver, Giandomenico Majone, and Vincent Ostrom, eds. 1986. Guidance, Control, and Evaluation in the Public Sector. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter.

    Kiser, Larry L. and Elinor Ostrom. 1982. “The Three Worlds of Action: A Metatheoretical Synthesis of Institutional Approaches.” In Strategies of Political Inquiry, ed. Elinor Ostrom, 179-222. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Lam, Wai Fung. 1996. “Institutional Design of Public Agencies and Coproduction: A Study of Irrigation Associations in Taiwan.” World Development 24(6):1039-54.

    Lindblom, Charles E. 1977. Politics and Markets: The World’s Political Economic Systems. New York: Basic Books.

    Lyons, William E., and David Lowery. 1989. “Governmental Fragmentation Versus Consolidation: Five Public-Choice Myths about How to Create Informed, Involved, and Happy Citizens." Public Administration Review 49:533-43.

    Lyons, William E., David Lowery, and Ruth Hoogland DeHoog. 1992. The Politics of Dissatisfaction: Citizens, Services, and Urban Institutions. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

    McDavid, James C. 1974. “Interjurisdictional Cooperation Among Police Departments in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.” Publius 4(4):35-58.

    McGinnis, Michael D., ed. 1999a. Polycentric Games and Institutions. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    ________, ed. 1999b. Polycentric Governance and Development. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Mitchell, William C. 1988. “Virginia, Rochester, and Bloomington: Twenty-Five Years of Public Choice and Political Science.”Public Choice 56:101-19.

    Mueller, Dennis C. 1989. Public Choice II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Niskanen. W. A., Jr. 1971. Bureaucracy and Representative Government. Chicago: AVC.

    Oakerson, Ronald J. 1987. “Local Public Economies: Provision, Production, and Governance." Intergovernmental Perspective 13(3/4):20-25. [ACIR]

    Oakerson, Ronald J., and Roger B. Parks. 1989. “Local Government Constitutions: A Different View of Metropolitan Governance." American Review of Public Administration 19(4) (Dec.): 279-94.

    Olowu, Dele. 1990. Lagos State: Governance, Society, and Economy. Lagos: Malthouse Press Limited.

    Ostrom, Elinor. 1983. “A Public Service Industry Approach to the Study of Local Government Structure and Performance.” Policy and Politics 11:313-341.

    ________. 1986. “An Agenda for the Study of Institutions.” Public Choice 48:3-25.

    ________. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    ________. 1996. “Crossing the Great Divide: Coproduction, Synergy, and Development.” World Development 24(6):1073-87.

    ________. 1997. “The Comparative Study of Public Economies.” Acceptance paper for the Frank E. Seidman Distinguished Award in Political Economy, presented at Rhodes College, Memphis, Tennessee, September 26, 1997.

    Ostrom, Elinor, William H. Baugh, Richard Guarasci, Roger B. Parks, and Gordon P. Whitaker. 1973. Community Organization and the Provision of Police Services. Sage Professional Paper in Administrative and Policy Studies 03-001. Beverly Hills and London: Sage Publications.

    Ostrom, Elinor, Roy Gardner, and James Walker, with Arun Agrawal, William Blomquist, Edella Schlager, and Shui Yan Tang. 1994. Rules, Games, and Common-Pool Resources. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Ostrom, Elinor, and Roger B. Parks. 1973. “Suburban Police Departments: Too Many and Too Small?” In The Urbanization of the Suburbs, ed. Louis H. Masotti and Jeffrey K. Hadden. Urban Affairs Annual Reviews Vol. 7, 367-402. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

    Ostrom, Elinor, Roger B. Parks, and Gordon P. Whitaker. 1973. “Do We Really Want to Consolidate Urban Police Forces? A Reappraisal of Some Old Assertions.” Public Administration Review 33 (Sept./Oct.): 423-32.

    ________. 1977. Policing Metropolitan America. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    ________. 1978. Patterns of Metropolitan Policing. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.

    Ostrom, Elinor, Roger B. Parks, Gordon P. Whitaker, and Stephen L. Percy. 1979. “The Public Service Provision Process: A Framework for Analyzing Police Services.” In Evaluating Alternative Law-Enforcement Policies, ed. Ralph Baker and Fred A. Mayer, Jr., 65-73. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

    Ostrom, Vincent. 1987. The Political Theory of a Compound Republic: Designing the American Experiment. 2d rev. ed. San Francisco: ICS Press.

    ________. 1989. The Intellectual Crisis in American Public Administration. 2d ed. University of Alabama Press.

    ________. 1991. The Meaning of American Federalism: Constituting a Self-Governing Society. San Francisco: ICS Press.

    ________. 1993. “Epistemic Choice and Public Choice.” Public Choice 77(1) (Sept.): 163-76.

    ________. 1997. The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerability of Democracies: A Response to Tocqueville’s Challenge. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    ________. 1998. “Some Developments in the Study of Market Choice, Public Choice, and Institutional Choice.” In Handbook of Public Administration, ed. Jack Rabin, W. Bartley Hildreth, and Gerald J. Miller, 1,065-87. 2d ed. New York: Marcel Dekker.

    Ostrom, Vincent, Robert Bish, and Elinor Ostrom. 1984. Il governo locale negli Stati Uniti. Milano, Italy: Fondazione Adriano Olivetti.

    ________. 1988. Local Government in the United States. San Francisco: ICS Press.

    Parks, Roger B. 1985. “Metropolitan Structure and Systemic Performance: The Case of Police Service Delivery.” In Policy Implementation in Federal and Unitary Systems, ed. Kenneth Hanf and Theo A.J. Toonen, 161-91. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff.

    Parks, Roger B., and Ronald J. Oakerson. 1989. “Metropolitan Organization and Governance: A Local Public Economy Approach.” Urban Affairs Quarterly 25(1) (Sept.): 18-29.

    ________. 1993. “Comparative Metropolitan Organization: Service Production and Governance Structures in St. Louis (MO) and Allegheny County (PA).” Publius 23(1) (Winter): 19-39.

    Parks, Roger B., and Elinor Ostrom. 1984. “Policing as a Multi-Firm Industry.” In Understanding Police Agency Performance, ed. Gordon P. Whitaker, 7-22. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

    Parks, Roger B., Kenna Davis Quinet and Tamara Schmitt. 1996. Indianapolis Police Department Community Policing: Citizen’s Perspectives. Indianapolis: Center for Urban Policy and the Environment, School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

    Sabetti, Filippo. 1984. Political Authority in a Sicilian Village. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    ________. 1998. The Search for Good Government: Understanding Italian Democracy. Book manuscript.

    Salamon, Lester M. 1995. Partners in Public Service: Government-Nonprofit Relations in the Modern Welfare State. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    Schneider, Mark. 1989. The Competitive City: The Political Economy of Suburbia. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

    Sharp, Elaine B. 1980. “Toward a New Understanding of Urban Services and Citizen Participation: The Coproduction Concept.” Midwest Review of Public Administration 14(2) (June): 105-18.

    Sproule-Jones, Mark. 1993. Governments at Work: Canadian Parliamentary Federalism and Its Public Policy Effects. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Stein, Robert. 1990. Urban Alternatives: Public and Private Markets in the Provision of Local Services. University of Pittsburgh Press.

    Tiebout, Charles M. 1956. “A Pure Theory of Public Expenditures.” Journal of Political Economy 64 (October): 416-24.

    Tocqueville, Alexis de. [1835] 1969. Democracy in America. Ed. J.P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

    Toonen, Theo A. J. 1987. Denken over Binnenlands Bestuur: Theorieë van de gedecentraliseerde eenheidsstaat bestuurskundig beschouwd (Conceptual Analysis of Intergovernmental Relations: A Public Administration Perspective on Theories of the Decentralized Unitary State). Ph.D diss., Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.

    United States Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR). 1987. The Organization of Local Public Economies. ACIR Report A-109. Washington, DC. [Author: Ronald J. Oakerson]

    ________. 1988. Metropolitan Organization: The St. Louis Case. ACIR Report M-158. Washington, DC. [Coauthored by Ronald Oakerson and Roger B. Parks with the assistance of Henry A. Bell]

    ________. 1992. Metropolitan Organization: The Allegheny County Case. ACIR Report M-181. Washington, DC.

    Weimer, David L., and Aidan R. Vining. 1989. Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice. 2d ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Whitaker, Gordon P. 1980. “Coproduction: Citizen Participation in Service Delivery.” Public Administration Review 40(3):240-46.

    Wunsch, James S., and Dele Olowu, ed. 1995. The Failure of the Centralized State: Institutions and Self-Governance in Africa. 2d ed. San Francisco: ICS Press.

    Suggested Further Readings

    The best place to begin is with a report published by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR). The Organization of Local Public Economies (1987), written by Ronald J. Oakerson, provides a clear and succinct summary of the Workshop approach to understanding local government. This report has been substantially revised and will be published in 1999 as Governing Local Public Economies: Creating the Civic Metropolis (Institute for Contemporary Studies [ICS] Press). For detailed applications of these analytical concepts to specific cases, see Metropolitan Organization: The St. Louis Case (1988), and Metropolitan Organization: The Allegheny County Case (1992).

    Local Government in the United States (ICS Press, 1988), by Vincent Ostrom, Robert Bish, and Elinor Ostrom, is a textbook that provides an overview of the Workshop perspective on the study of local government. The authors devote considerable effort to locating local government within the context of the overall structure of American government, because this book was originally prepared for publication in Italian. An earlier monograph that provides a clear discussion of the financing arrangements needed to make polycentric governance work is Understanding Urban Government: Metropolitan Reform Reconsidered (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Domestic Affairs Studies, Vol. 20, 1973), by Robert Bish and Vincent Ostrom. For a survey of the basic principles of rational choice theory upon which the Workshop approach to institutional analysis is built, see Robert Bish, The Political Economy of Metropolitan Areas (Markam, 1971).

    Patterns of Metropolitan Policing (Ballinger, 1978), by Elinor Ostrom, Roger B. Parks, and Gordon P. Whitaker, covers the full range of research findings from the survey of 80 metropolitan areas. This book provides a considerable amount of detail on how these metropolitan areas line up on the values of several measures of overall governance structure. Descriptive summaries of a good portion of this material is presented in a pamphlet by the same authors, Policing Metropolitan AmericaU.S. Government Printing Office, 1977). The contributors to F.X. Kufmann, G. Majone, and V. Ostrom, eds. Guidance, Control, and Evaluation in the Public Sector, (de Gruyter, 1986) suggest several related approaches towards resolution of the conceptual difficulties involved in modeling large-scale systems.

    There is no single book that provides an explicit comparison of the results of the evaluation of police performance in the Indianapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, and other metropolitan areas. Indeed, this lack of a book-length treatment was one of the inspirations behind the current volume. One important monograph is Community Organization and the Provision of Police Services (Sage Professional Paper in Administrative and Policy Studies 03-001, 1973), by Elinor Ostrom, William H. Baugh, Richard Guarasci, Roger B. Parks, and Gordon P. Whitaker. This monograph summarizes results from the earlier part of these projects, and it includes a clear statement of the components of the “production strategy” that smaller police forces rely upon to obtain such good results. Papers related to this project were included in The Delivery of Urban Services: Outcomes of Change (Urban Affairs Annual Review, Volume 10, 1976), edited by Elinor Ostrom, Comparing Urban Service Delivery Systems: Structure and Performance (Urban Affairs Annual Review, Volume 12, 1977), edited by Vincent Ostrom and Frances Pennell Bish, and special issues of Publius (Volume 4, Fall 1974, “The Study of Federalism at Work,” edited by Vincent Ostrom) and Policy Studies Review (Volume 7, 1978, “Symposium on Police and Law Enforcement Policy,” edited by Fred A. Meyer, Jr., and Ralph Baker).

    The implications of polycentric order for the study of public administration are detailed by Vincent Ostrom in his first major book, The Intellectual Crisis in Public Administration (2nd edition University of Alabama Press, 1989, 1st edition 1973). The field of public administration has been defined as an attempt to realize the aspirations of the reform tradition (as exemplified by the classic work of Woodrow Wilson), even though this mode of thinking was inconsistent with the structure of the American constitutional system as set up by the Founders. The underlying principles of design that the Founders used to set up a limited constitution are detailed in Vincent Ostrom’s The Political Theory of a Compound Republic (2nd edition, ICS Press, 1987, 1st edition 1971). In his two most recent books, The Meaning of American Federalism (ICS Press, 1991) and The Meaning of Democracy and the Vulnerability of Democracies (University of Michigan Press, 1997), Vincent Ostrom further expounds on the continuing relevance of Tocqueville’s understanding of self-governance as the foundation of American democracy. All of the research reported here has dealt with the U.S. context. Mark Sproule-Jones, Governments at Work: Canadian Parliamentary Federalism and Its Public Policy Effects (University of Toronto Press, 1993) and Robert L. Bish, Local Government in British Columbia (Union of British Columbia Municipalities in cooperation with the University of Victoria School of Public Administration, 1987) both demonstrate that institutional analysis and self-governance works north of the border as well. The latter book is nicely complemented by Robert L. Bish, Governing Puget Sound (University of Washington Press, 1982), which investigates all levels of governance in the neighboring state of Washington, including Native American governments. This same scholar prepared a summary statement of Basic Principles of Political Decentralisation to Local Authorities (University of Pretoria, 1983) as a contribution to constitutional reform in South Africa. Another country in Africa with a federalist governance structure is Nigeria, and Dele Olowu’s Lagos State: Governance, Society, and Economy (Malthouse Press Limited, 1990) provides a comprehensive analysis of local governance in Nigeria. Dele has co-edited several volumes dealing with issues of local and national governance in Africa, including The Failure of the Centralized State: Institutions and Self-Governance in Africa, 2nd edition, (ICS Press, 1995), edited by James S. Wunsch and Dele Olowu.

    Two books completed by scholars from other institutions while they were visitors at the Workshop are worth careful examination, because they demonstrate how Workshop research can be connected to broader issues of import in literature on urban politics more generally. Robert Stein’s Urban Alternatives: Public and Private Markets in the Provision of Local Services (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990) evaluates the effects on public policy of the ways in which municipal governments are organized. Mark Schneider’s The Competitive City: The Political Economy of Suburbia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989) examines competition among suburban communities as a form of market in public goods. Neither of these scholars adopts the Workshop perspective in toto, but they address many of the same dilemmas of local governance.

    The current volume was prepared in conjunction with two other volumes of previously published articles and book chapters by Workshop scholars. Both of these books focus on research conducted by Workshop scholars after the bulk of the research projects summarized in the current volume were completed. Polycentric Development and Governance (University of Michigan Press, 1999) focuses on the management of common-pool resources by self-governing communities throughout the world. This book also includes early statements of the Workshop perspective, dating back before the initiation of the police studies reported here. Both of the co-founders of the Workshop completed Ph.D. dissertations on resource use in the Western United States, and it was only after they moved to Indiana University that they developed an interest in evaluation of police services. Polycentric Games and Institutions (University of Michigan Press, 1999) includes technical papers that develop formal models and experimental tests of the conditions under which self-governance is likely to be successful. These two volumes complement each other well, because most of the models and experiments developed there are based on a generic representation of the problems associated with managing common-pool resources. It remains to be seen whether simple game models can be equally successful in helping us to understand the foundations of effective public service provision in metropolitan areas as the empirical studies brought together in this volume.

    Scholars interested in federalism, citizen participation, and self-governance will find useful bibliographies at the web address These bibliographies are maintained by Charlotte Hess, Workshop Librarian. Finally, readers are encouraged to check the Workshop’s home page ( for recent updates and for links to other reference and teaching materials.

    Back to the Workshop Homepage
    Copyright 1999, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis
    Last updated:  March 23, 1999