'Saving America From Dead Laws and Broken Government': A Q&A With Philip K. Howard, Author of The Rule of Nobody

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"The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government—Q&A with Philip K. Howard" Produced by Joshua Swain. About 45 minutes.

Original release date was April 15, 2014, and original writeup is below.

"All of life works on responsibility," says Philip K. Howard. "Everybody listening to this … has achieved what they've achieved in life because they took responsibility to make it happen. Government is no different than that."

In 1995, Howard wrote The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America, kicking off a national conversation about bureaucratic overreach and stupid regulations. In his new book, The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government, he extends and elaborates his analysis. It isn't bureaucratic gridlock or partisan polarization that's keeping Washington in perpetual mismanagement, argues Howard, but a fog of rules and regulations that has made it nearly impossible to figure out who is responsible.

Until civil servants can use common sense and practical judgement, he says, the government won't gain the flexibility needed for solving today's problems.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Howard discusses many topics, including: the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's inability to quickly raise the height of the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate newer, taller ships (00:57); why even President Obama doesn't control the executive branch (5:37); why regulations haven't made nursing homes better (7:50); how even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo couldn't shut down an unused juvenile detention center due to union rules (9:12); the long history of doctors gaming Medicare (10:31); why businesses are more flexible than governments (12:10); how technocratic views of government took over America; why mandatory minimums have led to abuse by prosecutors (18:42); specific reforms to shift from "automatic government" to individual responsibility (25:44); the goals of the Common Good Foundation (43:00); and the high probablitiy of a "seismic change" in America's political culture (44:10).

About 45 minutes.

Shot by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain. Edited by Swain.

Scroll down for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason TV's YouTube Channel to receive automatic updates when new material goes live.

Read Gillespie's review of The Rule of Nobody here.

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  1. “Until civil servants can use common sense and practical judgement, he says, the government won’t gain the flexibility needed for solving today’s problems.”

    Using common sense as opposed to Zero Tolerance?, and the freedom from responsibility cover that provides? Unpossible! This person is obviously stoned out of his gourd.

    1. Freedom means asking permission and following orders.

      Do I have that right, sarc?

      1. If you’re asking whether or not my post requires a ?/sarc? tag.. yes, absolutely.

    2. Zero Tolerance sucks because no one is ever held accountable. Allowing burrocrats to use their own judgement instead of following the letter (or even spirit) of the law is neither better nor worse as long as no one is ever held accountable.

      The only solution is to remove immunity, both qualified and absolute. That garbage concept is entirely judge-made law to shield the government from accountability. It appears nowhere in the Constitution, and would seem to me to be incompatible with due process and equal rights.

    3. I don’t know how you can call yourself Philip K. and not be a Dick.

    4. the government won’t gain the flexibility needed for solving today’s problems

      Do I detect an assumption here that government should, and is in fact capable of, solving today’s problems?

      And does this also contain a whiff of Top. Men.?

      Until civil servants can use common sense and practical judgement

  2. Governor of Illinois issues 43 clemency decrees. Naturally, the Chicago Tribune focuses on one case which (they suggest) may be deemed controversial. And the report deals as follows with the fact that the clemencies were issued just before Easter:

    “The announcement came late on the last working day before a holiday, which has become somewhat of a tradition for Quinn, who frequently acts on clemency petitions when there is likely to be less scrutiny.”

    Showing clemency around Easter? Sinister!

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/…..0363.story

    1. h/t pardonpower blog

    2. “The announcement came late on the last working day before a holiday, which has become somewhat of a tradition for Quinn, who frequently acts on clemency petitions when there is likely to be less scrutiny.”

      Have they made comment about Obo’s tendency to issue royal decrees late on Friday afternoons?

  3. “Until civil servants can use common sense and practical judgement, he says, the government won’t gain the flexibility needed for solving today’s problems.”

    He is kidding, right? Didn’t that moron Friedman say something to this effect, we should be more like China?

    All of the problems Howard would screw u….I mean fix by giving more freedom to government agents would disappear in a week by simply making the fuckers personally accountable for the things they do. That single difference is why the private sector is more efficient than government.

  4. Posted at least for artistic value

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MjDmDPeMLw

    1. Trigger Warning: Religious content

      1. Seriously dude, take a break on the religious spam.

        1. Saturday is the traditional religious-troll day, and that is raised exponentially on this particular Saturday.

          But I’ve been very good on other days, limiting my religious trolling to cases of necessity and trolling on secular topics instead.

          1. Of course, secular topics include atheism, which isn’t a religion.

            1. It’s only treated like one. Like liberalism.

        2. Catholic trolls don’t rest, dude. Especially not on a Saturday. He gave up not being pathetic for Lent. Actually, he never gave that up.

          1. It’s a catchy tune if you ignore the religious angle.

  5. Regulation is suffocating business. I think this may be the single most detrimental trend America has ever faced. It’s not any single policy. Yeah, ACA sucks and is going to be a huge drain on the economy, but its impact is nothing in comparison to the death by 1000 cuts of the constantly increasing regulatory state. The number of hoops you require entrepreneurs to jump through makes starting a business unfeasible for the average American. As is, a small business’s first hire needs to be a lawyer. Who can reasonably afford to do that?

    The US businessman spends $1.8T a year (p7) complying with federal regulation alone. Thats 13% of GDP. You wonder why the economy has been in the shitter since 2000? I give you regulation.

    Growing an economy is about the simplest thing in the world. You want a robust economy, you make it easier to do business, not harder. Government has been doing exactly the opposite for over a decade and a half. The candidate that can capture that and can convince the masses that that’s our problem would be a rock star.

    1. Regulation is suffocating business.

      That is utterly and completely false. After one makes some bodies turn cold, one switches his mind back to freak mode. After that, when one gets a car full of girls and it’s going real swell; the next stop is the Eastside Motel.

      1. Heroic to the M!

      2. I am so proud that I had to Google that to understand your comment.

        Dude, I love you to death, but your taste in music really sucks. 😉

        1. False, it’s a great song with a great sample at the beginning.

    2. IS what Howard is proposing an approval? Yeah, if you own a restaurant complying with all the health regulations is a pain, but you at least know the specific criteria for maintaining your license. Instead Howard wants a health inspector to be able to arbitrarily shut you down because his personal “judgement” makes him think you’re unsafe.

      1. By unsafe, you mean the inspector has a brother-in-law that is your competition?

        1. Maybe you just pissed him off by not making his egg salad sandwhich exactly the way he likes:

          http://www.pennlive.com/midsta….._ex-p.html

          (Note this story only ended up getting resolved when the restaurant owner sued, which Howard also wants to eliminate)

      2. Bingo. Giving bureaucrats broader authority is not a good idea.

  6. You want a robust economy, you make it easier to do business, not harder.

    Crazy talk.

    The only thing between us and mass death by kkkapitalism is s robust and enthusiastic regulatory bureaucracy.

    1. Yes. I seem to remember a nobel prize winning economist saying that very thing.

  7. Seriously, did this guy make a huge donation or something? I don’t get why Reason suddenly has a boner for this guys book.

    1. Slow news week. They don’t have enough other content to fill their page click quota, so they re-use old stories.

  8. Today on Derpbook:

    Not obeying a law is a choice and therfore voluntary. ….you might get away with it, you might have to suffer the consequences. Pretty simple logic.

  9. OT: Thom Hartman has hit a disturbing new low.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42EBAGLszwE

    Disclaimer: WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK.
    It is so far beyond parody that it is absolutely sickening.

    1. I got a few minutes in. That’s it. What a punchable face. Such a smug asshole collectivist.

  10. It’s been 15 years since I’ve read The Death of Common Sense, but as far as I recall, he never dealt with the downside of discretionary authority. He made all sorts of anecdotal observations regarding the constraints of stupid laws, but his ultimate deference to authority was absolute.

    The specificity that good ole Phil decries is still better than open ticket discretionary authority. You know what’s actually the solution to “Dead Government”, Phil my boy? Actually killing it.

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