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Mismanaging America: The Rise of the Anti-Analytic Presidency / Edition 1

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An American president must be master of two arts: politics and management. Without political mastery, he can't get elected, let alone construct the power base he'll need to govern. But without managerial expertise, his policy making will be unintelligent and ineffective.

Managerial mastery has been missing from the administrations of all post-World War II presidents, according to Walter Williams. Spurred by popular anti-bureaucratic sentiment and promises to trim the fat from the federal government, presidents from Eisenhower to Carter have decimated the ranks of top-level bureaucrats, leaving the Executive Office of the President alarmingly short of competent policy advice.

Reagan took the process a step further. He was, according to Williams, the first explicitly anti-analytic president. "Ronald Reagan launched an eight-year war on policy information and analysis," Williams writes. "He won. His distaste for expert policy information, analysis, and advice led to the destruction of much of the institutional analytic capacity built up in the Executive Branch."

Poor policies and inept governance are the direct result of cutbacks in expert policy information and analytic capacity, Williams contends. He traces the decline of policy analysis since Eisenhower, but focuses his most devastating analysis on Reagan, who cut experts from the agencies, relied on a few hand-picked, mainly political advisers, and held all policy analysis to an ideological standard.

The results of the fifty-year trend, according to Williams, are massive budget and trade deficits, public sector underinvestment in physical and human capital that threatens America's superpower status, and a widening gap between rich and poor that is tearing apart the nation's social fabric. Still, the situation is not hopeless. Williams prescribes a series of measures to correct America's course, arguing that government is not just the problem, it's the solution.

"This is an incisive original analysis of an important issue."—Fred I. Greenstein, author of Evolution of the Modern Presidency.

"The issues examined here—the emergence of technically trained, professional policy advisers, the proper role of such advisers, and the consequences of presidential failure to seek and use such advisers effectively*#8212;are of major importance to American governance. Others have examined pieces of the puzzle, but until now no one has explored it in this depth, using the methodology of repeated confidential—and very candid—interviews with actual participants in the policy process."—Harry S. Havens, author of The Evolution of the General Accounting Office.

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Editorial Reviews

A reprint of the 1977 edition--which is in BCL3. A work deserving better than this acidic paper. Williams (public affairs, U. of Washington) reports that Ronald Reagan, while he was president, virtually demolished the federal government's structure for gathering and processing information. He cites the S&L and HUD scandals as just the beginning of the repercussions of the executive not having access to information or advice from specialists. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700605385
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/28/1992
  • Series: Studies in Government and Public Policy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.03 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents



1. Expert Information, the Analytic Revolution, and Presidential Governance

2. The President's Policy Advisers and Policy Analysis

3. Domestic Policy Analysis in the Executive Branch, 1964-1980

4. The Reagan Era: First Term

5. The Reagan Legacy

6. Presidential Role, Style, and Competence

7. Institutional Fixes

8. Effective Presidential Governance


List of Abbreviations


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