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Why Government Succeeds and Why It Fails / Edition 1

Why Government Succeeds and Why It Fails / Edition 1


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Why Government Succeeds and Why It Fails / Edition 1

This book looks beyond politics to show how the ability of the U.S. government to implement policies is strongly affected by various economic constraints. These include the credibility of the policies, the ability of government to commit to them, the extent to which firms and consumers rationally anticipate their effects, whether the success of a policy further encourages firms and individuals to behave in intended ways, and whether the behavior of such actors can be sustained without continued government intervention.

The authors apply these concepts to four areas of policy: macroeconomic policies to promote employment and economic growth, redistributive policies to benefit the poor and the elderly, production policies to provide goods and services, and regulatory policies to guide the behavior of firms and individuals. In doing so they provide plausible explanations of many puzzling phenomena—for example, why government has been successful in reducing cigarette smoking, but has failed to get people to install and maintain emission-control devices in their cars.

This book recasts debates about public policy, avoiding conventional “pro-government” or “anti-government” positions; rather, it helps to predict when public policy will succeed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674015890
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/15/2005
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.87(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

Amihai Glazer is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Irvine.

Lawrence S. Rothenberg is Max McGraw Distinguished Professor of Management & the Environment and Co-Director of the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Public Policy-Limits and Possibilities

How Economics Interacts with Politics

Structure of Analysis

Conceptual Apparatus: Economic Constraints

What Makes Problems Soluble?

1. Macroeconomics: Can Government Control the Economy?

Managing the Economy: Partisan Incentives and Political Cycles

Monetary Policy and Rational Expectations

Fiscal Policy-Is It Just Crowding Out?

Exhortation: Persuasion and the Art of Equilibrium Selection

Spending, Taxes, and Expectations: Budget Deficits as Policy Instruments

Can Government Control the Economy?

2. Redistribution: A Success Story?

Economic Constraints and Redistribution

Uncertainty and Redistribution: Data

Government Commitment to Future Redistribution

Implications for Redistribution

Effectiveness of Redistributive Policy

Why Not Taxes?

Conclusions: Redistributive Possibilities

3. When Can Government Regulate?

The Scope of Regulation

Regulating Firms: Possibilities and Pitfalls

Regulating Consumer Behavior

Conditions for Regulatory Success

4. Producing Goods and Services: Getting the Right Mix

What Is Production?

Crowding Out Private Provision

Credibility as an Obstacle to Inducing Production

Credibility as an Obstacle to Restricting Production

Production Is Difficult

5. Economic Constraints and Political Institutions

Divided Government and the Politics of Gridlock

Federalism and the Devolution of Authority

Political and Policy Reform

What Do Politicians Know?

Institutional Design and Policy Effectiveness

6. Final Thoughts

What Can Government Do? Five Lessons

Conclusions: The Burden of Government




What People are Saying About This

Tyler Cowen

A very important book, Why Government Succeeds and Why It Fails goes well beyond standard public choice theory in several regards. First and most importantly, it advances the debate over government failure. Rather than staking out a simplistic "pro-government" or "anti-government" position, it helps us determine when government policy is likely to succeed. Second, the book shows that credibility is a more important concept than had previously been realized. And third, it offers new and striking analysis and evidence on particular policies, such as recent attempts to make government more accountable. On top of all this, the book is highly readable and will command significant attention across a variety of disciplines.
Tyler Cowen, George Mason University

James T. Hamilton

Most economists have a list in their heads of the conditions under which markets fail. Most political scientists have a set of theories about why politicians may fail to represent notions of the "public interest." The authors here ask a different type of question, which is often overlooked: under what economic conditions are government policies likely to work? Across many different areas of public policy, they illustrate how the success or failure of policies can be predicted. This is an excellent book. It will be a welcome addition to many different types of classes where public policies are debated and examined.
James T. Hamilton, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University

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