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Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better Hardcover – March 30, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 30, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691161623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691161624
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Honorable Mention for the 2015 PROSE Award in Government & Politics, Association of American Publishers

"[A] sweeping history of policy disappointments."--David Leonhardt, New York Times

"In Why Government Fails So Often, Peter H. Schuck takes up this vital question in what amounts to a systematic survey of the limits of American public administration. It is a profound book, and a sobering one. . . . Peter H. Schuck has written an essential manual for 21st-century policy makers."--Yuval Levin, Wall Street Journal

"Schuck does a beautiful job of laying out all the problems with government intervention. . . . [T]here are many gems in this book."--David Henderson, Econlog

"Schuck makes a compelling case that many domestic programs, including those that have considerable public support among Republicans as well as Democrats, deliver benefits at costs that are much higher than necessary and contain damaging unintended consequences."--Glenn Altschuler, Boston Globe

"Anyone who wants clear insight into government's modern wayward momentum, and its toll on society, should hear Peter Schuck. . . . His recommendations for change are refreshing."--Colorado Springs Gazette

"This lively and authoritative account of government failure deserves to be read by advocates of all political persuasions. . . . This admirable work offers compelling evidence that government might do far better by doing far less."--Gene Epstein, Barron's

"Peter Schuck's new book Why Government Fails So Often provides a thoughtful if pessimistic analysis."--Laura Tyson, Project Syndicate

"Peter Schuck's Why Government Fails So Often is one of the most important books of the year and may be one of the most important books of the decade. Although I have seen this prolific author's name over the years, I had never read any of his work. My loss. Fortunately, I have read every page--including endnotes--of his latest book, and it is a tour de force."--David R. Henderson, Regulation

"[Why Government Fails So Often] is a timely book in light of the steep declines in the public's regards for government, a Congress that is increasingly hostile to federal programs, and a civil service whose morale keeps sinking lower with every survey. Schuck's analysis helps explain why the government is so reviled and thus helps us think about remedial steps and the kinds of policies that should be avoided in the future."--Timothy B. Clark, Government Executive

"Very highly recommended for academic and community library Political Science collections, Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better is an impressive work of meticulous scholarship that is so well written and presented that it is equally accessible for political science students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in understanding the mechanics, development, and implementation issues concerning governmental policies on the federal level."--Jack Mason, Midwest Book Review

From the Back Cover

"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

Customer Reviews

Schuck has written a very important book, carefully researched and well written.
Dennis Aigner
Worse, the author does not find the one element that unites all failures: a lack of broad consensus behind the policies and programs in question.
technophobic
The amount of information, facts, analysis in this book is too detailed to be summarized in one review.
Brian Popowsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Brian Popowsky on April 25, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend this book to anyone who believes that the level of government incompetence is totally unacceptable, but believes that government can be improved through a more rational scientific approach that brings the government into the 21st century. The amount of information, facts, analysis in this book is too detailed to be summarized in one review. One amusing section of this book on bureaucracy talks about layering government into endless supervisory positions. This results in job titles such as "deputy deputy assistant secretary,"associate deputy assistant secretary,"deputy associate deputy administrator" ,and "chief of staff to the associate deputy assistant secretary".

This is a book that would generally appeal to people who are moderate liberals, moderates or moderate conservatives. It is for people who are tired of ideology, while looking for practical solutions and are open to thinking outside the box. The author recognizes the limits to central planning by "experts" but recognizes that government plays an essential role in a modern complex society. Tea party conservatives who want to deeply slash government programs but usually don't know specifically what they want to cut are probably not going to like this book. Ultra-Liberal progressives who want to drastically increase taxes and throw money at problems by increasing spending by 2 trillion a year are also not going to like this book or be pleased by its findings. .
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ray Gratrix on August 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author goes into great detail about reasons for governmental policy failure. I think too much detail. The author will start discussing structural problems that cause failure, but then goes into such detail that the original point becomes lost. In short, I think he is over analyzing the problems.

Nearly all of the reasons for failure that author discusses can be put into the following categories:

Central planning of large systems is very, very difficult, arguably impossible. There are too many things that are unknown, and there will always be unforeseen consequences.

Large bureaucracies nearly always evolve, rather quickly, into into a form that is more concerned about preserving and growing the bureaucracy than accomplishing the mission is was originally created to do.

And, perhaps the biggest structural flaw, and maybe the root cause – when you are using other people's money, it is all too easy, nearly inevitable, that achieving the original goal of the project will become subordinate to other considerations, such as political agendas or personal and organizational gain.

While I applaud the author's thought that reforms should be done cautiously and incrementally, and while he proposes some reforms, I don't think they really address the basic structural problems I have listed here.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Terry Jennrich on October 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It took me weeks to read this book, but for the depth of the discussion of government performance it was well worth the time. Every member of congress, president, taxpayer, GAO official, CBO official, and American voter should eventually read this book and then start voting out of office member of Congress or President's who keep promoting more government programs, or who stop the termination or modification of existing programs who either no longer serve the purpose for which they were intended, or which never achieved the results their sponsors and special interest groups touted. Maybe then we could eventual balance the federal budget while addressing some of the problems we citizens face and which the government might be able to assist us in dealing with. A few examples will suffice.
The farm bill is a bargain between the legislators of rural farm states and those of urban poor areas pg 140.
Moral hazard applies to Freddie and Fannie which failed to propagate home ownership pg 141. Dodd/frank encouraged too big to fail but will not prevent bank failures pg 142. Pension benefit gurantee corp and flood insurance do nothing to fix the underlying problems pg 143. The poverty index overstates the problem , but does nothing to fix it pgs 171-172. Postal service unions and inefficient government mandates make our problems worse pgs 173-176. Repeal the Jones act pg 177-178. Did you know we have a USDA office to inspect cat fish? pg 191-192. Why is this needed? The author takes to task the Amtrack food service which looses millions of dollars each year due to waste, employee theft, and lack of proper oversight. Again Congress does nothing!!! pg 226 ftnt see pgs 249-250 about amtrack's failings.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Chris Hoofnagle on June 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books I've ever read about regulation, because Schuck really cares about getting things right. Schuck reviews a wide range of government programs, distilling which ones work, and why. The outcomes are sometimes surprising, with both liberal and conservative policies picked apart to find a pragmatic solution to societal problems. Schuck has respect for all viewpoints, and he manages to find the worthwhile ideas among all the strange ones out there. This book is also a very good introduction to the kinds of regulation government can engage in, and their relative merits.
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