Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government

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It is no secret that the American people are dissatisfied with government. But while the frustration and anger are real, the way we tend to view the problem is all wrong. In his critically acclaimed look at why American government has been crippled, Jonathan Rauch exposes precisely why our government has lost its ability to make things work. Year after year, the American public forms more interest groups, making more demands on government - until gradually government itself has calcified. The problem is called ...
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Overview

It is no secret that the American people are dissatisfied with government. But while the frustration and anger are real, the way we tend to view the problem is all wrong. In his critically acclaimed look at why American government has been crippled, Jonathan Rauch exposes precisely why our government has lost its ability to make things work. Year after year, the American public forms more interest groups, making more demands on government - until gradually government itself has calcified. The problem is called "demosclerosis," and, as Rauch reveals, the culprit is us, all of us.

It is no secret that Americans are dissatisfied with government. But while the frustration and anger are real, the way we tend to view the problem is all wrong. Rauch reveals the real problems with government, and offers a bracing tonic for unclogging the public arteries.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Declaring ``We have met the special interests, and they are us,'' National Journal contributing editor Rauch ( Kindly Inquisitors ) here offers a tart, stimulating essay on government failure to solve domestic problems. Blending analysis and reportage, he argues that the pursuit and entrenchment of government benefits helps special interests and a ``parasite economy'' of lobbyists but harms the nation as a whole. The least organized groups--the young and unborn--are most neglected and threatened by the federal deficit. While Rauch supports such ``process reforms'' as public campaign financing, he recommends the privatization of services and the elimination of subsidies--to the sugar industry, for example--and of programs that favor an identifiable group, profession or region. He suggests that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Clinton administration's economic plan did not try to restructure government. While Rauch admonishes both liberals and conservatives, critics on the left might fault him for not emphasizing that taxation in the U.S. is much lower than in most industrialized countries. Author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
According to Rauch, contributing editor of the National Journal , the main problem of our national government is not gridlock--the inability to act. Indeed, many new laws are passed each year. Instead, government lacks the flexibility to act in such a way as to deal effectively with the nation's problems. Rauch calls this condition demosclerosis and claims that it has been intensified in recent decades by the increasing number of interest groups with vested interests in retaining existing governmental programs. Such groups are amenable at most only to marginal programmatic change. Rauch makes a strong case that our governmental arteries are clogged and that interest groups have played a major role in creating this condition. He also performs the valuable service of pointing out how widespread interest group membership is among the public. Although there is a tendency for many people to view interest groups as organizations that other people belong to, Rauch recognizes that ``Groups `R' Us.'' Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.-- Thomas H. Ferrell, Univ. of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette
Ray Olson
Our national inability to solve our worst problems--lousy schools, rampant hooliganism, the deficit, etc.--is usually ascribed to a presumably partisan phenomenon called gridlock. But forget gridlock, this lucid, persuasive public policy analysis says. The reason the government can't get anything done is that there are too many citizen-whiner organizations--politely if not respectfully known as lobbies--pressing to have their benefits locked into law. Once they succeed, secondary groups of whiners (the American Association of Retired Persons is a classic example) arise to see to it that their programs are never even trimmed, let alone eliminated; if anything, program budgets only expand. These immortal boondoggles (including such stellar pork barrels as the sugar, tobacco, and dairy subsidies) tie up increasingly more revenue, preventing through financial privation any new actions to deal with emergent problems as well as any revision of ineffective ways of dealing with old ones. And so, the government of the richest nation in history becomes too poor to deal with its own breakdown; democracy is frozen--demosclerotic. Rauch proposes more forceful presidential leadership, more citizen forbearance, and--stiff medicine, this--more taxes and more budget cuts as necessary means to curb the ill effects of a disease he thinks can never be eradicated but might be contained so that it becomes chronic but not fatal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812922578
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/12/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 260

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