Volume two of the project I started writing in 2011, titled Political Order in Changing Societies, hits bookstores later this month. It is an attempt to map out how modern states have evolved out of patrimonial ones, and tries to show how simplistic understandings of how development works can lead to disastrous policy.
Many political institutions in the United States are decaying. This is not the same thing as the broader phenomenon of societal or civilization decline, which has become a highly politicized topic in the discourse about America. This is the result of intellectual rigidity and the growing power of entrenched political actors that prevent reform and rebalancing. This doesn’t mean that America is set on a permanent course of decline, or that its power relative to other countries will necessarily diminish. Institutional reform is, however, an extremely difficult thing to bring about, and there is no guarantee that it can be accomplished without a major disruption of the political order.
The botched rollout of healthcare.gov shows why the US desperately needs reform of its public sector. President Obama has shown great faith in the ability of government to provide services, but absolutely no awareness of how poorly it performs, or how desperately it needs a total restructuring. Getting the healthcare insurance web site up and […]
I could spend the next ten posts or so describing how poorly crafted legislative mandates have led to bad administrative outcomes, but I’ll provide just one here that is quite typical of many developing-world public agencies. The city of Hyderabad, India, has been one of the fastest growing over the past two decades, and one […]
The US Army’s incorporation of mission orders into its combined arms doctrine described in an earlier post was an example of a government agency that was delegated an appropriate degree of bureaucratic autonomy, a delegation that extended down to the lowest levels of the organization. This kind of delegation is extremely rare in government operations, […]
I’m taking a break from my series on governance to post the source code for an agent-based model I created called Creatures. I wrote the underlying code in Java about ten years ago, but recently ported it to the Processing language, which is a variant of Java that vastly simplifies graphics programming. When you run […]
The central problem in any bureaucratic organization, whether in the public or private sector, is how to delegate sufficient authority to agents who have expertise and are close to sources of local knowledge, while at the same time maintaining overall control over their behavior. In an ideal organization, the principals set the organization’s overall goals, […]
The title of this post is taken from a 1994 article by John DiIulio (Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 4(3), 1994: 277-320), which criticized the principal-agent framework being used by economists to understand organizational behavior, governance, and political corruption. Under principal-agent, organizations (whether public or private sector) are hierarchical structures in which principals […]
In this series of posts on the nature of effective government, I want to keep the focus narrowed to questions of implementation. Many of the comments made by the governance specialists on my “What is Governance?” paper on the Governance web site criticized my effort to restrict my focus to implementation. They argued that it […]