If You Want Sage Advice on What Needs to Be Overhauled at the Highest Reaches of American Government, Here Are Two Well-Seasoned Advisers Who Seem to Have Their Fingers on the Controls of D.C.’s Acrimonious and Hideously Incompetent Cook Stove
Listen, if you will, to this wise and highly topical counsel for Americans interested in effective, responsible, long-term, and long-“visioned” governance. I quote. And quote. And quote. And quote. And quote. And quote:
• The problem of governance in the United States is mainly one of creating institutions or governing arrangements that can pursue policies of sufficient coherence, consistency, foresight, and stability that the national welfare is not sacrificed for narrow or temporary gains.
• Perhaps the essence [of the problem] today is that current administrative structures…are so entrenched that their adaptations to new conditions contribute little to overall government effectiveness. Established structures no longer can contain political tensions between Congress, the president, and the bureaucracy, and, riven by conflict, they often do not permit successful management of the nation’s problems….Institutional dysfunction helps to stalemate, congressional-presidential negotiations over policy changes, and to hamper the implementation of those policy changes that do get made.
• [Fundamental] changes in government arrangements have never come easy. Political tensions have always had to build to high levels, compromising not only government performance but also the political interests of Congress and the president before action has been taken….[Each] institution has had to be convinced that its own actions were not sufficient to protect the interests or those of the country.
• The presidency can take the broader view of national problems because it is the one office that has a national constituency, and it is the office best placed to find the appropriate balance between domestic and international concerns. The presidency as it is now constituted, however, is not up to these tasks.
• Presidents can be nearly as shortsighted as Congress, as mounting deficits in recent years have amply demonstrated. Also needed are institutional changes that will remind presidents of their obligations to long-range national needs…and less about opinion polls and reelection strategies—things the White House is currently so well designed to consider.
• One cannot help but applaud any efforts at policy compromise when so much of the contemporary acrimony, institutional confrontation, and unrestrained criticism of Congress, the bureaucracy, and the president by partisans in control of other institutions.
So say John E. Chubb and Paul E. Peterson, who wrote Can the Government Govern? Their book was published in—are you ready for this?—1989!!! Is it time for change or what?
Their book is available here: Can the Government Govern?