Why Government Fails So Often, and How It Can Do Better



Peter Schuck, Yale University

Date and Time

April 17, 2014 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM April 16.


Encina Ground Floor Conference Room


Professor Schuck's new book first identifies the endemic  ineffectiveness of much federal domestic policy as a major cause of public disaffection with Washington.  This disaffection has grown along with the size and ambition of federal programs and  now threatens the very legitimacy of our polity.  Synthesizing a vast amount of social science evidence and analysis,  he argues that this widespread policy failure has little to do with which party dominates Congress and the White house but instead reflects the systemic, structural, institutional obstacles to effective policy.  These deep obstacles to coherent policymaking include our political culture, political actors' perverse incentives, voters' collective irrationality, policymakers' poor information, the government's inherent inflexibility and lack of credibility, the effect of dynamic markets on policy coherence, the inherent limits of law as a policy instrument, a deviant implementation process, and a deteriorating bureaucracy.  Those policies that have succeeded help to explain why most policies fail. Professor Schuck proposes a variety of remedies to reduce government's failure rate.

Speaker Bio:

Peter H. Schuck is the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law Emeritus at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.  He has held the Baldwin professorship since 1984, and also served as Deputy Dean of the Law School. Prior to joining the Yale faculty in 1979, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (1977-79), Director of the Washington Office of Consumers Union (1972-77), and consultant to the Center for Study of Responsive Law (1971-72).  He also practiced law in New York City (1965-68) and holds degrees from Cornell (B.A. 1962), Harvard Law School (J.D. 1965), N.Y.U. Law School (Ll.M. in International Law 1966), and Harvard University (M.A. in Government 1969). 

His major fields of teaching and research are tort law; immigration, citizenship, and refugee law; groups, diversity, and law; and administrative law. He has published hundreds of articles on these and a broad range of other public policy topics in a wide variety of scholarly and popular journals.  His newest book is Why Government Fails So Often, and How It Can Do Better (April 2014).  Earlier books include Understanding America: The Anatomy of An Exceptional Nation (2008) (co-editor with James Q. Wilson; Targeting in Social Programs: Avoiding Bad Bets, Removing Bad Apples (2006)(with Richard J. Zeckhauser); Meditations of a Militant Moderate: Cool Views on Hot Topics (2006); Immigration Stories (co-editor with David A. Martin, 2005); Foundations of Administrative Law (editor, 2d ed., 2004)  Diversity in America: Keeping Government at a Safe Distance (Harvard/Belknap, 2003); The Limits of Law: Essays on Democratic Governance (2000); Citizens, Strangers, and In-Betweens: Essays on Immigration and Citizenship (1998); and Paths to Inclusion: The Integration of Migrants in the United States and Germany (co-editor with Rainer Munz, 1998); Tort Law and the Public Interest: Competition, Innovation, and Consumer Welfare (editor, 1991); Agent Orange on Trial: Mass Toxic Disasters in the Courts (1987); Citizenship Without Consent: Illegal Aliens in the American Policy (with Rogers M. Smith, 1985); Suing Government: Citizen Remedies for Official Wrongs (1983); and The Judiciary Committees (1974). He is a contributing editor of The American Lawyer.

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