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The Next Government of the United States : Why Our Institutions Fail Us and How to Fix Them
This book exposes the reality that our twentieth-century government is no match for twenty-first-century problems and proposes a solution.
In this timely and compelling book, Donald F. Kettl demonstrates how the process of governance has fallen out of sync with the problems the government is trying to solve. Pick almost any recent domestic concern--waging a war, protecting our food supply and borders, providing health-care coverage for an aging population or relief after a devastating hurricane--and the standard response is to outsource most of the core tasks to thousands of independent contractors. The government foots the bill, but this strategy provides neither leadership nor accountability. Without anyone in charge, who can formulate innovative solutions to the increasingly complex problems the government faces? Kettl has answers, explaining with precision and clarity how a twenty-firstcentury government must function in order to provide real solutions to the policy problems that face the United States.
Kettl's cogent and unbiased analysis of the failure of government institutions posits that current challenges, whether in health care or disaster response, have outgrown the capacity of monolithic government agencies, even while the size of government continues to swell. Kettl (The Transformation of Governance) observes that "a bigger government with more shared responsibility has created a system in which no one is fully accountable for anything government does." He presents a balanced and unpartisan analysis of the Hurricane Katrina debacle, examining human error and generations of poor decision making as well as the intricacies of federalism and the organizational complexity of government institutions. According to the author, there exists a disconnect between how policy is executed, who is responsible and how institutions should share responsibility. Adapting institutions to current problems (and not the other way around) is a necessary change in mindset, Kettle argues, and crucial to greater government accountability, the overarching challenge for future leaders. (Dec.)
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W. W. Norton & Company
November 30, 2008
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