Coronavirus

How To Reboot the Government with Common Sense

Hold agencies and regulators accountable for outcomes, not compliance.

|

"The virus teaches us something. It's a wakeup call," says Philip K. Howard, the founder of the nonprofit Common Good and author of such bestsellers as The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America and The Rule of Nobody: Saving America from Dead Laws and Broken Government. "The reason it spread through the country is because public health officials were delayed by over a month while they waded through the red tape of Washington to get approvals to start testing."

Howard is not a libertarian, but he believes strongly in a limited, effective government that comes close to the libertarian vision. In the video below and through an effort called the Campaign for Common Sense, Howard pulls together an interesting set of Reason-adjacent policy wonks and pols—including former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, and Free-Range Kids author Lenore Skenazy—to push for reducing the sheer number of rules governing virtually every aspect of our personal and commercial lives. (Howard often cites "the 5,000 rules for a family-owned orchard" as an example.)

It's an appealing vision, and one sketched out in detail in Howard's 2019 book, Try Common Sense. (Go here for a podcast interview I did with Howard). In a recent interview with The Washington Examiner, Howard calls for a "spring cleaning" of old and outdated regulations:

I'll give you an example of a program in Australia a couple of decades ago. They replaced their thick rulebook on nursing homes with 31 general principles. Have a home-like setting, respect the dignity of the residents, and such. Experts scoffed. But before, the nursing-home operators were getting away with murder; within the year, the nursing homes were twice as good. They ran a study, and what they found was when people came to work and they didn't have their noses in the rulebooks, they could internalize these principles, and they could focus on what the residents needed. And they could run their nursing homes in different ways. Most states have something like a thousand rules for their nursing homes. It's just absurd. You've got to have two pictures on the wall, the window has to be this big, so many peas on the plate. It's unbelievably granular.

The policy specifics will be rolled out over the course of the summer, but some are already public. For instance, when it comes to liability issues related to COVID-19 and the welfare of workers, the group calls for a "a special administrative court [that] will achieve the reliability needed to avoid chilling recovery. It will also avoid clogging regular courts with COVID claims." Another plank takes aim at ending unjust protections for public employees such as cops and teachers ("in a typical year, only two of California's 300,000 teachers are dismissed for poor performance").

If the protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing show anything, it's that public opinion can coalesce rapidly around longstanding grievances. It's unlikely that the changes the Campaign for Common Sense is calling for will explode into the public consciousness the way that calls for police reform have. But in a long summer featuring two generally unpopular candidates for president, voters might be more interested than usual in hearing about sensible pragmatic reforms.

NEXT: Tucker Carlson Might Want To End Qualified Immunity If He Actually Knew What It Was

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They replaced their thick rulebook on nursing homes with 31 general principles.

    Hmm. A “bill of rights”, as it were?

    1. He’s basically saying, hey maybe we should just stick to the Constitution. You know, some general principles, a few inalienable right, a handful of enumerated powers and then just leave it at that.

      1. Liza Make money online from home extra cash more than $18k to $21k. Start getting paid every month Thousands Dollars online. I have received $26K in this month by just working online from home in my part time.VDf every person easily do this job by just open this link and follow details on this page to get started….. New Income Opportunities

      2. It’s kind of hard to create a massive army of make-work, employed for life, Cadillac pension and heathcare having, always vote for (D) cause they’ll give you raises government employees if only do the sensible things that a government is realistically capable of doing.

  2. Goals for government policies and actions, whether general or specific might be okay. But outcomes?

    The focus on outcomes is what has skewed the ethics of basic principals like equality and fairness. Statist progressives focus only on outcomes, and readily abandon equality of treatment. Using outcomes as the key metric, we will always be a racist, sexist, or otherwise unfair society.

    1. “Using outcomes as the key metric…”

      I see what you mean! WHY are ALL driver’s licenses issued to people older than 8 years of age?!?! Is this NOT age discrimination?!? WHY are there NO doctors, lawyers, and bridge-designers practicing their arts, who are inflicted by Down’s Syndrome?!?! UNFAIR!!!

      Sometimes one, sometimes the other… Outcomes-based discrimination DOES make sense, though, in workplace safety regulations! See my comments below… Stuff and stuff is complicated!

  3. James Bovard was a somewhat popular writer some 20 years ago… He helped me become a whack-job libertarian, and a believer in small government. James Bovard “Freedom in Chains” was one of the best, https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00ANYAFJE/reasonmagazinea-20/ … “Lost Rights” as well.

    I can no longer remember which ideas were in which book, but James had a very simple idea: You industrial safety regulators just BACK OFF on micro-managing ANY enterprise that wounds or kills no one! The more workers killed or injured on the job, the more the regulators can come in and check it out! Very simple! Collect the stats on workplace injuries and deaths, and WHERE they happen, and focus on the offenders!

    But NOOOO… What we have, instead, is regulators enforcing regulations like “thy safety railings MUST be 39.000 inches tall, and no more, and no less”, and here are your armies of regulators and lawyers, with the tape measures and precision micrometers, FORCING you to replace your safety railings if they are 39.002 or 38.998 inches tall!!! Fucking SPECIAL INTERESTS (like the bread and butter of regulators and lawyers) is the root of all evil, here!

    1. Ever think maybe there should be no safety rules from the government, and that being stupid should hurt?

      1. Sure, agreed, but baby steps first… If we can get regulators to use COMMON SENSE and judgment, and limit their powers, that’s a start at least…

      2. Safety rules should be mandated by the insurance companies.

    2. I am making a good pay from home 1900 Buckets/week, that is brilliant, beneath a year agone i used to be unemployed amid a monstrous economy. I pass on God consistently i used to be invested these bearings, and at present, I should pay it forward and impart it to everyone. Click For Full Details.

  4. How To Reboot the Government with Common Sense

    Nick, perhaps you would get more comments with
    “How To Boot the Government with Common Sense”.

  5. “The reason it spread through the country is because public health officials were delayed by over a month while they waded through the red tape of Washington to get approvals to start testing.”

    Don’t know who said this. Don’t care. They’re a lying sack of shit with lies to sell.

    The reason it spread was because it’s a new virus and no one was , is immune. Everything else is more or less supported conjecture.

    1. HIV testing has been available for over 3 decades now. Remind me again when and where it has been eradicated? Iran?

  6. Not a single person in the world can prove that they got a case of the Communist Chinese Virus from a specific location.
    No need for anything but throwing out all cases claiming damages from a business based in getting sick in that one location instead of everywhere else you were in the last 14 days.

    1. Well, OK; maybe one person in China who was used as a test bunny by the government. But we will never learn the name.

      1. My last month cheque was for 1500 dollars… All i did was easy on-line work from comfort at home for 3-4 hours/day that I got from this agency I discovered over the net and they paid me for it 95 usd each hour. See more detail here…. Click For Full Details.

    2. I refuse to give the hysterical power mongers an inch.

      Most people need to be exposed to the KungFlu and postponing this fact will result in longer pain. Especially if Americans get KungFlu during Flu/Cold season.

      Had America dont nothing but up staff areas like NY City, the USA would have already been over this cough due to cold.

      1. Influenza has killed hundreds of millions of humans. Kungflu has not even reached 500k deaths worldwide. Even with counting people who died of whatever while infected with Wuhanvirus, its a low death rate.

    3. The people on the boats.

  7. Cut all federal and state government budgets by 50%+ tomorrow.

    Many of these tyranny problems would work themselves out.

  8. George Nader pleaded guilty in January to bringing a 14-year-old boy from the Czech Republic to the U.S. 20 years ago to engage in sexual activity.

    I wonder if unreason will do a story to keep us abreast at how the Mueller coup attempt failed and its players are coming along.

    1. Hole-ly Fuck. That article should come with a ‘Not safe for your soul’ warning.

  9. “voters might be more interested than usual in hearing about sensible pragmatic reforms”

    Sadly libertarians live in a fantasy world. They could have tried this looting burning and rioting schtick to get what they want. They would rather go the C SPAN and NPR route.

    1. Nope. Not NPR.

  10. “No government has ever commanded the resources at the disposal of our ungodly Leviathan, which consumes about 25 percent of the product of the world’s richest country. It is driven by a voracious alliance of government’s own employees, and those who receive benefits from the state. At least 90 million Americans either depend directly on government handouts or jobs, and each private worker must support not only himself and his family, but also carry a government worker on his shoulders.”
    ~ Tom Bethel

    Bethel wrote this in 1999, one of the very rare times of budget surpluses. Imagine how much worse it, now is, with Trump racking up the worst deficits and debt in our history.

    1. With all the candidates who were running on a platform of shrinking the government and the debt how, oh how, did we manage to choose the one who didn’t give two shits about it?

      1. Election 2016 devolved into the successful search for the worst two politicians in America.

        1. Need treatment for your TDS?
          Stuff it up your ass so your head has company.

    2. Odd that the debt increased every year of those “surplus” years.

  11. Reboot the government with common sense?
    Will you share with me the stuff your smoking, Mr. Gillespie?
    The shit you’re smoking must be primo.

  12. Or we could take Reason and the liberaltarians preferred route, and cover for the Marxists so they’ll be kind and spare us…

    1. They are never kind, and they never spare anyone because of past actions.

  13. How about we apply the NAP to government by prohibiting it from initiating force?

  14. “How To Reboot the Government with Common Sense”

    Burn it to the ground. Start over from scratch. Try to do a better job this time. If necessary Rinse, Repeat.

  15. I am making a good pay from home 1900 Buckets/week, that is brilliant, beneath a year agone i used to be unemployed amid a monstrous economy. I pass on God consistently i used to be invested these bearings, and at present, I should pay it forward and impart it to everyone……………… http://www.Topcitypay.com

  16. Forget common sense; it is too rare. How about the silly old Constitution?
    Say eliminate all cabinet departments not in the constitution?
    State
    Treasury; Article 1, section 8
    Defense; Article 1, section 8
    Justice; Article 3
    Interior
    Agriculture
    Commerce
    Labor
    HHS
    HUD
    Transportation
    Energy
    Education
    Veterans Affairs
    Homeland Security

  17. I am always skeptical of the term Common Sense. We all have a idea what it means, but in fact it can mean different things to different people and at different times. To the earliest human common sense told them the sun traveled around the earth, before Galileo common sense said a 6 pound ball would fall faster than a 2 pound ball, and before Einstein common sense said time was constant. Like it or not you need data and benchmarks. How data is used and what are the benchmark are ultimately are determined by the public. If we want less rules we have to decide what is important.

    1. Only one thing is important, liberty.

      1. You came back with a word that is about as well defined as Common Sense. This country was founded on Liberty, well for white men who owned property. If I took a group of US citizens of different ages, races, economic status, and religions/beliefs put them in a room could I get a single definition of Liberty?

        1. Correct but this is a preeminent libertarian site where it can be assumed most people are going to define it as negative liberty or freedom from external interference.

  18. I am making a good pay from home 1900 Buckets/week, that is brilliant, beneath a year agone i used to be unemployed amid a monstrous economy. I pass on God consistently i used to be invested these bearings, and at present, I should pay it forward and impart it to everyone.Click Here For More Detail.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.