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Demosclerosis:: The Silent Killer of American Government Paperback – August 22, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

According to Rauch, contributing editor of the National Journal , the main problem of our national government is not gridlock--the inability to act. Indeed, many new laws are passed each year. Instead, government lacks the flexibility to act in such a way as to deal effectively with the nation's problems. Rauch calls this condition demosclerosis and claims that it has been intensified in recent decades by the increasing number of interest groups with vested interests in retaining existing governmental programs. Such groups are amenable at most only to marginal programmatic change. Rauch makes a strong case that our governmental arteries are clogged and that interest groups have played a major role in creating this condition. He also performs the valuable service of pointing out how widespread interest group membership is among the public. Although there is a tendency for many people to view interest groups as organizations that other people belong to, Rauch recognizes that "Groups 'R' Us." Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.
- Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Our national inability to solve our worst problems--lousy schools, rampant hooliganism, the deficit, etc.--is usually ascribed to a presumably partisan phenomenon called gridlock. But forget gridlock, this lucid, persuasive public policy analysis says. The reason the government can't get anything done is that there are too many citizen-whiner organizations--politely if not respectfully known as lobbies--pressing to have their benefits locked into law. Once they succeed, secondary groups of whiners (the American Association of Retired Persons is a classic example) arise to see to it that their programs are never even trimmed, let alone eliminated; if anything, program budgets only expand. These immortal boondoggles (including such stellar pork barrels as the sugar, tobacco, and dairy subsidies) tie up increasingly more revenue, preventing through financial privation any new actions to deal with emergent problems as well as any revision of ineffective ways of dealing with old ones. And so, the government of the richest nation in history becomes too poor to deal with its own breakdown; democracy is frozen--demosclerotic. Rauch proposes more forceful presidential leadership, more citizen forbearance, and--stiff medicine, this--more taxes and more budget cuts as necessary means to curb the ill effects of a disease he thinks can never be eradicated but might be contained so that it becomes chronic but not fatal. Ray Olson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (August 22, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812926323
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812926323
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,672,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Glenn H. Reynolds on July 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is perhaps the best single book of the decade on how special-interest politics has undermined the functioning -- and moral stature -- of government. Now almost five years since the book first came out, it's probably time for a revised edition. Anyone who wants to understand the root causes of our moral and political funk, even in good economic times, should read this book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brian Leverenz on December 17, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is an insightful analysis of what is ailing our political culture. Our own tendency to want a voice in government has led to an explosion of lobbying and advocacy groups in Washington that is literally putting our society in gridlock. That the author neglects to blame the American public and chooses instead to blame lobby groups is the book's only failing, though this is hardly surprising as we as a society have always been loathe to blame ourselves, we instead blame our politicans and the lobby groups. Rauch's book details the explosive growth of lobbying organization and their impact on politics and policy. His writing style is sure to entertain the reader and his conclusions are not altogther negative; he points out that a society as wealthy as our own has always found ways to adapt to this gridlock and can probbaly afford it more than we think. But for those of you who are tired of interest group politics in America, this book is for you! Those of you who think your group is somehow better or more noble than anyone else's group, that you are somehow representing the public interest, should be especially interested in this book! Your delusions will be shattered! Excellent and entertaining book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Froehlich on February 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
For a book written nearly two decades ago, it remains remarkably relevant. In fact, it seems more relevant today than it was when it was written because the problem described is worse today.

People get arteriosclerosis -- hardening or shrinking of the arteries -- making the heart less efficient. The U.S. government has demosclerosis, which is the progressive shrinking of the government's problem-solving ability. Americans surely have less confidence today in their government's ability to address problems than we did in the mid-1990s.

Gridlock is not the problem, insists Jonathan Rauch. The problem is that government seems to be less and less efficient at alleviating more ills than it causes. Even as government tries to do more, people are less satisfied with the results. The reason for this hardening of the governmental arteries is the proliferation of interest groups, each seeking preferential treatment in the form of subsidies, tax breaks or anti-competitive rules.

As the benefits-hunting industry grows, "the steady accumulation of subsidies and benefits, each defended in perpetuity by a professional interest group, calcifies government. Government loses its capacity to experiment and so becomes more and more prone to failure."

Rauch's diagnosis is nonpartisan -- both parties get the blame for demosclerosis -- as do liberals and conservatives. The cause, he contends, is inherent in democracy and in the the "public's tendency to form ever more groups clamoring for ever more goodies and perks and then defending them to the death." The governmental calcification only gets worse, Rauch presciently predicted, unless a serious effort is made to treat it.
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By J. A. Schroeder on February 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
More graphs...historical data...etc would be helpful to explain the main points that the author felt so compelled by that he decided to dedicate years to researching and writing a book.
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