A call to alter the ways of governmental policymaking that hinder democracies from reaching their full potential.
It’s easy to critique the shortcomings of democratic political systems but much more challenging to offer plausible remedies. Coad admirably takes on this daunting task, though some readers might prefer to see more illustrative examples employed throughout the text. However, when Coad does provide examples, they are well-chosen and effective—in particular, the sections on climate change and oil and gas prices—and his writing style is accessible even when discussing complex economic issues. The first half of the book could serve as required reading for an advanced high school civics class or an introductory level college course in political science, where students can fill in perceived gaps by researching or extrapolating their own examples of flawed public policy strategies. The centerpiece of the text consists of 10 guiding principles for a socially efficient government “acting in the best interests of all of its citizens” and a network of governmental agencies that would rely upon trained experts in a given field to propose and evaluate legislation. In fact, Coad faults unqualified legislators for the sad state of affairs in many democratic governments: gross misconceptions, politically expedient decisions, unproductive ideological battles and political gridlock. As Coad writes: “To produce efficient policy requires a high level of expertise, which is far, far beyond the knowledge and ability of any individual voter, politician or political party.” While an emphasis on competition, efficiency, flexibility, transparency and accountability among these largely autonomous agencies sounds appealing, the possibility that truly independent experts—with reduced conflicts of interest—could collect and interpret data with fewer biases isn’t entirely convincing. Nevertheless, Coad returns to more solid ground in the three final chapters on free market capitalism, the Great Recession and social responsibility before reiterating his 10 principles in the appendix.
Contains some wishful thinking, but many readers will appreciate this admirable effort in pursuit of a more perfect union.