From healthcare to workplace conduct, the federal government is taking on ever more responsibility for managing our lives. At the same time, Americans have never been more disaffected with Washington, seeing it as an intrusive, incompetent, wasteful giant. The most alarming consequence of ineffective policies, in addition to unrealized social goals, is the growing threat to the government's democratic legitimacy. Understanding why government fails so often--and how it might become more effective--is an urgent responsibility of citizenship. In this book, lawyer and political scientist Peter Schuck provides a wide range of examples and an enormous body of evidence to explain why so many domestic policies go awry--and how to right the foundering ship of state.
Schuck argues that Washington's failures are due not to episodic problems or partisan bickering, but rather to deep structural flaws that undermine every administration, Democratic and Republican. These recurrent weaknesses include unrealistic goals, perverse incentives, poor and distorted information, systemic irrationality, rigidity and lack of credibility, a mediocre bureaucracy, powerful and inescapable markets, and the inherent limits of law. To counteract each of these problems, Schuck proposes numerous achievable reforms, from avoiding moral hazard in student loan, mortgage, and other subsidy programs, to empowering consumers of public services, simplifying programs and testing them for cost-effectiveness, and increasing the use of "big data." The book also examines successful policies--including the G.I. Bill, the Voting Rights Act, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and airline deregulation--to highlight the factors that made them work.
An urgent call for reform, Why Government Fails So Often is essential reading for anyone curious about why government is in such disrepute and how it can do better.
Peter H. Schuck is the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law Emeritus at Yale University. He is the author or editor of many books, including Agent Orange on Trial, Meditations of a Militant Moderate, Diversity in America, and Understanding America. Before joining the Yale faculty, he was an official in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and practiced law in Washington, DC, and New York.
"For Peter Schuck, 'government failure' is neither a political creed nor a reactionary slogan. It is an empirical fact that demands explanation and response. His book shows that, at the federal level, policy failure is pervasive, nonpartisan, and firmly rooted in our political culture and inherent features of government organization. Schuck has some excellent suggestions for improvement, but his great contribution is in his analysis. Why Government Fails So Often defines the central problem of modern politics and illuminates it with a range and sophistication it has never received before."--Christopher DeMuth, Hudson Institute
"The botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act website reminded Americans of how badly the machinery of government can malfunction, even when the stakes are highest. Schuck leaves no stone unturned in this sophisticated and compelling account of why so often, in the realm of domestic policies, the government falters. This is the most systematic and comprehensive treatment of the subject I have ever read."--Pietro S. Nivola, Brookings Institution
"This masterful book offers a 'militantly moderate' argument about why federal domestic policies fail and what incremental steps might reduce, reverse, or prevent the worst failures. This book is a winner."--John J. DiIulio, University of Pennsylvania
"This is an extraordinarily interesting book that has the potential to be unusually influential. It avoids the pitfalls of ideological rigidity, covers an amazing array of government programs, relies on extensive empirical evidence, and provides rich analysis. The book's range and detail allow it to look at problems that are endemic to government policymaking."--R. Shep Melnick, Boston College
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1
PART 1: The Context of Policy Making 37
CHAPTER 2: Success, Failure, and In Between 39
CHAPTER 3: Policy-Making Functions, Processes, Missions, Instruments, and Institutions 64
CHAPTER 4: The Political Culture of Policy Making 91
PART 2: The Structural Sources of Policy Failure 125
CHAPTER 5: Incentives and Collective Irrationality 127
CHAPTER 6: Information, Inflexibility, Incredibility, and Mismanagement 161
CHAPTER 7: Markets 198
CHAPTER 8: Implementation 229
CHAPTER 9: The Limits of Law 277
CHAPTER 10: The Bureaucracy 307
CHAPTER 11: Policy Successes 327
PART 3: Remedies and Reprise 369
CHAPTER 12: Remedies: Lowering Government's Failure Rate 371
CHAPTER 13: Conclusion 408