The Effect of Populism on Public Sector Innovation

I’m writing a paper about the effect of populist government on public sector innovation, which I will be presenting as a conference keynote in Norway in November. I’m focusing primarily on the Trump Administration. By populism I mean an ideology encompassing both xenophobia (towards people, goods, and international institutions) and anti-elitism towards the intellectual elite, especially their use of science and evidence-based analysis.

I expect that Trumpian populism is affecting public sector innovation in five ways.

  • Savage budget cuts force agencies to focus on their core mission and remove resources that could be used to support innovation
  • It is curtailing the government’s role in the collection of scientific and socio-economic data, especially when such data would conflict with its ideology (for example climate-change data)
  • It refuses to use evidence-based policy inquiry, preferring its own alternative sources and facts
  • Blaming and shaming public servants, even Trump’s own cabinet, discourages all public servants from accepting the risks that come with innovation.
  • It resists international collaboration, which is an important source of innovation.

I am looking for (unattributed) practitioner or academic informants who could provide me with evidence that either does or does not support these expectations.


1 comment

  1. I don’t have any evidence for you (I’m living in S. Korea, which is the focus of most of my data collection).

    But I think you may wish to be careful with a distinction between what political appointees are trying for, what Trump is Tweeting (Twumping) and what the professional senior staff (SES and GS 11s – GS 4s) will do.

    No bets until the actual budget is presented.

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