WHY GOVERNMENT FAILS SO OFTEN by Peter H.  Schuck

WHY GOVERNMENT FAILS SO OFTEN

And How It Can Do Better

KIRKUS REVIEW

Schuck (Emeritus, Yale Univ.; Foundations of Administrative Law, 2012, etc.) undertakes “to explain and perhaps to help solve” the myriad failures of government, in which a majority of citizens have little faith or confidence.

The author's systematic and multifaceted analysis may come as a surprise to those who accept the quick answers provided by references to “political gridlock” or the “division of power.” Schuck insists that foisting blame on government often reflects a failure by citizens to acknowledge their own roles. “The public views the federal government as a chronically clumsy, ineffectual, bloated giant that cannot be counted upon to do the right thing, much less do it well.” Achieving political support to establish policies, however, will not be sufficient to make them work. Schuck delves deep into the relations among the different elements, and he points out the inability to repeal what he considers outdated, even wasteful legislation—e.g., the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (aka, Jones Act, regulating shipping between American ports), the World War II tax subsidy to employer health insurance contributions and formula-based federal assistance to school districts. The author also dissects the widespread mismanagement of programs and duplications of effort, and he shows how the federal government has grown fivefold since the 1960s, with an attendant growth at the state and local levels. Schuck recognizes the conflicts that arise from the division of powers, but he emphasizes overlaps between the branches and the effects each has on the others. The author presents and considers a wide variety of solutions, including transformation in the political party system and constitutional-level reforms. Ultimately, he writes, “I have shown that [the] relationship between government’s ambition and its failure is grounded in an inescapable, structural condition: policy makers’ meager tools and limited understanding of the opaque, complex social world that they aim to manipulate.”

A substantial analysis of the causes and failures of government functioning.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-691-16162-4
Page count: 488pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2014




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