Another Perspective on the Dysfunctionality of the U.S. Government

Philip K. Howard
Philip K. Howard

The dysfunctionality of the U.S. government has been common theme of this blog.

Another reason for this unfortunate phenomenon is posited by Philip Howard in an op-ed article in the Washington Post and presumably in his book, The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government.

Howard believes the “main culprit” for dysfunctionality is law. “Generations of lawmakers and regulators have written so much law, in such detail, that officials are barred from acting sensibly. Like sediment in the harbor, law has piled up until it is almost impossible — indeed, illegal — for officials to make choices needed for government to get where it needs to go.”

Examples are cited. The President “lacks the power to approve the rebuilding of decrepit bridges and roads.” Legally required reviews for highway projects now take up to eight years. New statutes these days are complex and lengthy.

“Human responsibility,” Howard argues, “should be restored as the operating philosophy for democracy. Only real people, not bureaucratic rules, can make adjustments to balance a budget, or be fair, or change priorities. Democracy cannot function unless identifiable people can make public choices and be accountable for the results.”

“Our government is failing not because of bad policies but because of flawed institutional design. No one is allowed to take responsibility.”

Howard is a frequent commentator on national issues and the author of several books. In 2002, he formed Common Good, a nonpartisan national coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. Howard is a Partner in the New York City office of the law firm of Covington & Burling, LLP, where he represents corporations and executives in a wide range of issues, including governance, regulatory disputes, securities litigation, and business transactions.  He is a graduate of Yale College and the University of Virginia Law School.











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As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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