Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, a scurrilous attack on James M. Buchanan.
Peter Schuck comes to Liberty Law Talk to discuss Why Government Fails So Often. Like James Buckley and John DiIulio, Schuck doesn’t have much good news for the large majority of Americans who are disgusted with the performance of the federal government and its ability to devise and execute policies. Schuck notes that in April 2013, only 28% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the federal government. Many have tried to explain this phenomenon with various government affirming answers, but Schuck is forthright in the book and this interview when he states that the best answer is that the “federal government does in fact perform poorly in a vast range of domestic programs.” One problem, among many, is that the bar to federal action is now so low. They can’t stop helping us.
When problems erupt: corrupt corporations, national security fears, financial crises, deficiencies in private healthcare, etc., the answer is massive statutes (Sarbanes Oxley, the Patriot Act, Dodd Frank, Obamacare), and even larger amounts of regulatory production and agencies to enforce them. Little consideration is given, Schuck notes, to questions of how markets will react to the regulations, how accurate the information is that policy-makers have relied on in shaping policy, and how credible and manageable the final product will be to those who will use it. Timeless problems of how centralization and knowledge impede effectively implementing the policies are rarely considered. Compounding this problem, Schuck says, is Congress itself, which is largely willing to push the real questions of statutory guidance onto the federal bureaucracy.
This discussion with Schuck also explores what he calls policy successes which are characterized by government not attempting to reshape markets and persons, but merely opening a legal door to goods for which there was pent up demand. Schuck remains a believer in the need for a large federal government, but notes that the way to competency and effectiveness isn’t likely to be found without substantial reforms in policy-making.