"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 following: 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 "seismic change" in America's political culture (44:10).
About 45 minutes.
Shot by Jim Epstein and Joshua Swain. Edited by Swain.
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Read Gillespie's review of The Rule of Nobody.