The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government

Philip K. Howard, Author
Philip K. Howard. Norton, $23.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-393-08282-1
Reviewed on: 01/27/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Open Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-393-24211-9
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-0-393-35075-3
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Howard (The Death of Common Sense), chairman of Common Good, attempts to offer a set of rational, nonpartisan solutions to Americans frustrated with government ineffectiveness at all levels. His well-meaning, if questionable, approach—which seeks to restructure bureaucracies in simpler forms—is bound to face opposition, as the forces arrayed against his reforms would be both massive and well-funded. Few will take issue with the book’s essential premise that, on the whole, government doesn’t get things done with great efficiency, but as Howard proffers horror story after horror story of bureaucrats following the letter, not the spirit, of the law, and laments the gradual accretion of rules and regulations that paralyze rather than empower, one is left confused as to who would actually benefit from his reforms. While the fiction that removing human judgment from decision-making enables both uniformity and increased performance is convincingly exposed, his anecdotal evidence, however real and shocking, seems cherry-picked to suit his arguments. Moreover, it’s unclear how some of Howard’s ideas—e.g., a citizens’ council tasked with focusing on the long-term implications of present policies—would actually clear up the bureaucratic muddles they’re meant to solve. Though many governmental institutions could be better run, the reforms Howards submits here are less than convincing. (Apr.)
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