The secret to good government is a question no one in Washington is asking: “What’s the right thing to do?”
What’s wrong in Washington is deeper than you think.
Sure, there’s gridlock, polarization, and self-dealing. But hidden underneath is something bigger and more destructive. It’s a broken governing system. From that comes wasteful government, rising debt, failing schools, expensive health care, and economic hardship.
Rules have replaced leadership in America. Bureaucracy, regulation, and outmoded law tie our hands and confine policy choices. Nobody asks, “What’s the right thing to do here?” Instead, they wonder, “What does the rule book say?”
There’s a fatal flaw in America’s governing system—trying to decree correctness through rigid laws will never work. Public paralysis is the inevitable result of the steady accretion of detailed rules. America is now run by dead people—by political leaders from the past who enacted mandatory programs that churn ahead regardless of waste, irrelevance, or new priorities.
America needs to radically simplify its operating system and give people—officials and citizens alike—the freedom to be practical. Rules can’t accomplish our goals. Only humans can get things done.
In The Rule of Nobody, Philip K. Howard argues for a return to the framers’ vision of public law—setting goals and boundaries, not dictating daily choices. This incendiary book explains how America went wrong and offers a guide for how to liberate human ingenuity to meet the challenges of this century.
©2014 Philip K. Howard (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Software engineer and avid, lifetime student. I like deep, thoughtful non-fiction, and fiction that compliments and enriches it.
If I had the money, I'd buy a copy for every US voter. Howard calls attention to what is really paralyzing our government - a bureaucratic reversion to microscopically inane rules that 1) no one fully knows, 2) no one can change, and 3) provide "cover" for both amoral politicians as well as inept workers. It is April 15th and millions of Americans are doing their taxes - and cursing those incomprehensible forms. Welcome to the world of Administrative Rule-Making.
I don't know how or why this happened - Howard says the administrative rule-making craze really got going around 1969 - the idea being that to have a "fair" government, you have to have a mechanistic ("automatic") government where office-holders (including bureaucrats) are not free to act prudently, but must act according to prescribed rules. However, no one seems to have stopped to question the logic behind this: sure, it is true that an impersonal, mechanistic government is incapable of "unfair" treatment - but unless the rules are being created (and updated) by God - a little knowledge of the history of human predictive prowess would indicate that the result of a mountain of procedural rules will produce absurd results - like a superpower that threatens itself with a shut down every other year while Congress trades chits.
As Howard says, for all the virtue of the US Constitution, The Founders failed to consider that the structure they created makes it hard to make new laws - but it makes it even harder to change or revoke old laws.
There are only two possible outcomes here. Either we adapt our government into an agile format that restores authority (and with it, accountability) to office-holders, or the US government will collapse, sooner or later. The billions of dollars wasted every year on policies and programs we know are broken - but can't be fixed - are unsustainable - and immoral.
I would also like to note that this book can also be read as a prescription of what is wrong with corporate America, too. Large corporations suffer all the same problems seen in our government.
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