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Government's End: Why Washington Stopped Working Paperback – December 23, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition (December 23, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1891620495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1891620492
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Author

At a big press dinner one night in early 1985, when I was settling into my first job in Washington, I found myself sitting next to a man who was a lot more interesting than the official speaker at the rostrum. In person, David Stockman, the architect of the "Reagan Revolution," was as brilliant as his reputation, but what was most striking was his candid bitterness. Stockman had come to Washington, with Ronald Reagan, determined to change things. But he had failed, and he knew it. They had failed.

Over the next few years, I encountered a few other young reformers. One was the earnest and deeply knowledgeable governor of Arkansas. Bill Clinton's mastery of the inner workings of government policy was astonishing. Ask him about health or welfare or education, and his answers combined the savvy of a politician with the knowledge of a bureaucrat. Then there was an obscure but ambitious young Turk congressman by the name of Newt Gingrich. I'll never forget this starry-eyed back-bencher explaining to a gaggle of conservative activists how Washington could be changed--if only you'd think "outside the box."

Clinton and Gingrich, as I saw first-hand, had brains, talent, determination. They both attempted "revolutions" to rival Stockman's. And they both failed, each more spectacularly than the last. This book revisits the ideas that I first published in my book Demosclerosis, which suggested that Washington's disease is more complex and cunning than even a Clinton or a Gingrich realized. The new edition has a new title, because it is partly a new book. The earlier ideas are here, but I've also tried to account for the experiences of the 1990s--and to peer into the future, where a new relationship between the people and their government is taking shape.

About the Author

Acclaimed as the smartest young political journalist in Washington, Jonathan Rauch writes a bi-weekly column for National Journal and contributes widely to other magazines and journals. A graduate of Yale University, he lives in Washington, D.C.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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This book is a must read if you want to understand how Washington works.
Amazon Customer
While these and other difficult concepts within the chapter sound complicated, Rauch's fresh perspective and crisp writing style make it an easy chapter to read.
ME
Washington has "stopped working," in Mr. Rauch's words and in his book, he explains why.
Todd Winer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By John Rocha Jr. on April 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
Rauch's book exposes the sad truth about interest groups and their impact on the federal government.
He makes two basic arguments. First, that each interest group is only concerned about their survival and prosperity. And second, that the federal governemnt in unable to get rid of these groups due to their expansive powers as a whole. The fed he says is unable to fight these groups because there are too many to fight at once and because so many of these groups have powerful friends on the other two rungs of the iron triangle.
The consequences of these actions is that the federal government is forced to fund outdated/ineffective organizations that do no good for the public. Also, worthwhile programs are under-funded. And lastly, the problems that have yet to be addressed have a small chance of being solved because too much of our resources are spent on these entrenched dinosaurs.
I recommend this book to anyone trying to learn about what's really going on in the federal government beneath the non-analytical levels of todays news reports. Rauch provides many examples to back up his claim but doesn't get bogged down in political/economic jargon. The only critique I have abotu the book is that he tends to repeat his sub-arguments a little too much but it may help in underscoring the main points to his claim as a whole.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Todd Winer on February 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you're trying to understand why the federal government is deaf to the needs of its citizens, this book will tell you why. Further, if there is any question why John McCain strikes such a chord with the American people, the answer will be found in here. Yes, the economy is doing great (and the polls say Americans agree). Yes, our position in the world is dominant (and Americans agree). But when it comes to the performance of the government, you can see the vein bulging on the average American's forehead. Washington has "stopped working," in Mr. Rauch's words and in his book, he explains why. The culprit is an explosion of special interests who seek to exploit political and finiancial gain from our nation's capital. The myth of the "national interest" has been quietly put to rest. In its place is the roar of special interests who sap the nation's economy, stifle legislation, and stir public cynicism. Mr. Rauch is a bit too cynical about the prospects for reform; I do not share his belief that government has "ended." Hopefully, the next generation of political leaders, heeding Rauch's warning, will prove him wrong.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wendt on January 26, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is hard to express how good a job Rauch does at putting forward his view of Wahington. He paints a vivid, believeable, coherent picture; he is fair-minded and nonjudgmental to a fault (truly - he is much too kind to many people); his pronouncements on, and advice for the future are measured and realistic, and not completely unconvincing; and on top of this the book reads very quickly. Greider's "Who Will Tell the People" is comparable in message, but, while very well done, that much larger book fails to present as clear a testament to what has happened to Washington in the last 40 years. Though people who are interested in politics should already have come to grips with Rauch's thesis, the fact is that most have not, while the average, relatively apolitical American would no doubt find this book quite an eye-opener. As the other reviewers note, Rauch is a consistently fine writer; here is a good place place to start reading.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Glenn H. Reynolds on January 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've always been a big fan of Demosclerosis and I'm also a big fan of this book, which is a heavily revised version. The revision is heavy enough that I felt I got my money's worth with this new edition. If you haven't read Demosclerosis, buy this book. If you have, you may want to buy it anyway for the new content. Rauch puts his finger on the reason why special-interest gridlock creates a polity that is considerably less than the sum of its parts. There are also some brutally effective graphics -- my favorite being the (declining) confidence in government as a near-perfect reciprocal of the (increasing) number of pages of federal statutes. Buy it, read it, send copies to your friends.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Reihan M. Salam on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jonathan Rauch, in my estimation, is the best political essayist in the business. His column in National Journal contains the most insightful and intelligent analysis I've ever come across. On the strength of his columns, I ordered Government's End several months before it was published. Upon receiving it in the mail, I read it immediately. To say the very least, I was not disappointed. Government's End forces those of us who wish to reform Washington to confront the ineluctable logic of transfer-seeking and its corrosive effect on government efficacy. In describing the "demosclerosis" caused by transfer-seeking, he presents a rigorous examination of economic and policy trends. At the same time, he never gives in to histrionics. Rauch has convinced me to abandon some of my grandiose ambitions for reform. At the same time, he has inspired me to seek effective treatments for our enduring "demosclerosis."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By ME on April 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
I wrote this for my grad class at CSUS

Why is the federal government deaf to the concerns of its citizens? This and many more questions concerning the current state of the affairs within the American government is answered by Jonathan Rauch, in his book, Governments End; Why Washington Stopped Working. Rauch does this by covering topics such as:
* The system that special interest groups and lobbyists work within, and how it came into being.
* Public-choice theory and the problems of collective action
* Defining "demosclerosis" and the problems that it has caused, and will continue to cause.
* Appraising the reforms of Reagan, Clinton, and Gingrich, without care for political party.

Rauch, using highly dramatic, but deadly accurate terms, such as the "parasitic economy", explains the reason why the American government has become unable to respond to the needs of the average citizen. Rauch also tackles why those who seek to change the system are unable to. Rauch does this by cataloging the efforts of Reagan, Clinton, Gingrich and those that supported them. Rauch then records why those efforts at reform have failed, and how we can make them work. Rauch defines this reform failure as being caused by as "demosclerosis," or "government's progressive loss of the ability to adapt."
Rauch also attempts to do what many other authors have failed to do: explain the special interest groups and lobbyists in a clear, concise manner that does not "take sides" in the debate about who "good" and "bad" lobbyists/special interest groups are. Rauch does this without pointing fingers at specific groups, instead he asks the American public to look in the mirror and understand they are not only a part of the problem, they truly are the problem.
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