Re-imagining government

The book


Public leaders and managers today face an unprecedented range of challenges. Combining original thinking with the insights of an accomplished practitioner,

Barry Quirk examines how democratic political systems can be made to work more effectively and, in particular, how they can deliver better outcomes for less money in the straitened circumstances of the coming decade.


Contents and chapters


The changing kaleidoscope of democracies

If Men Were Angels:

The core purposes of good government

Jumping to Conclusions:

The Golden Gate Bridge and the public realm

Finding a Common Cause:

The roots of cooperation for the common good

Deciding in a Democracy:

Making public decisions

The Geography of Governing:

The experience and power of place and locality

Results Driven Leadership:

Building blocks for leadership and management

Risky Business:

From natural hazards to man-made risks

The Crunch and the Big Squeeze:

The long drive to lower public sector costs

Better, Quicker, Cheaper:

Redesign of public services to meet citizen needs


Changing democratic governments, reforming public services


“Using practical stories and insightful ideas, Barry Quirk successfully integrates the theory and practice of politics, public policy and public management”

The public triangle

The twin demands of public reason:


1. Governments need to create ‘safe havens’ for reasoned discussion among people with different views. In any community, disagreeing peacefully is a prerequisite for building future agreements.


2. Elected representatives need to make reasonably based decisions that are open to reasonable enquiry and that are explained reasonably to the public.

The demands, How to decide, The need

Jumping to Conclusions


In the year 2000, Kevin survived the jump off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco - one of the most popular suicide spots in the world.


Over 1,500 have jumped since the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s - 98% of these people have died. What should be done to prevent these private tragedies at this public place? How is the public interest best served in respect of this specific public problem? And what are the demands of public reason on those charged with governing and managing the Bridge?

Golden Gate Bridge

“a disciplined approach to public service management: better management of supply and demand; more effective management of programmes and projects; and process and value improvement techniques as well as cost reduction strategies."

Better, quicker, cheaper

Scale, flow, scope, penetration

Risky business


Reducing public risk.

Safeguarding people from harm and hazard.

Helping people make their own best judgments in the context of uncertainty.

Together with quasi-market and welfare reforms, these new approaches are an attempt to go beyond conventional and systemic approaches to strategic planning

Three paths of public service reform

“Quirk has taken issues that I have been struggling with for years and given answers in clear, simple, compelling prose. Particularly impressive is the way he integrates discussion of politics, policy making, and management as inseparable parts of good government. I couldn’t recommend the book more highly: I only wish I had written it myself!”

Mark H Moore, Kennedy School of Government,

Graduate School of Education, and Business School, Harvard University

“A powerful and readable mixture of theoretical insight, empirical commentary and practical experience which genuinely illuminates how public decisions are made and could be made better. It makes a fantastic contribution to our understanding of public management and leadership but also gets to the heart of how politics works.”

Gerry Stoker, University of Southampton

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