Relic: The Constitution and Ineffective Government


American government is incapable of dealing effectively with the challenges of modern society. Why the dysfunction? The usual suspects include polarization and the rise in campaign spending. But William Howell and Terry Moe argue—in their new book, Relic—that the roots of dysfunction go much deeper: to the Constitution itself. The framers designed the Constitution some 225 years ago for a simple agrarian society. But the government they created, a separation of powers system with a parochial Congress at its center, is ill-equipped to address the serious social problems that inevitably arise in a complex post-industrial nation. We are prisoners of the past. The solution is to update the Constitution for modern times. A promising step forward, the authors argue, is a simple reform that pushes Congress and its pathologies to the periphery of policymaking, and brings presidents to center stage.


Speaker Bio:

Terry M. Moe is the William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He has written extensively on public bureaucracy and the presidency, as well as the theory of political institutions more generally. His articles include "The New Economics of Organization," "The Politicized Presidency," "The Politics of Bureaucratic Structure," "Political Institutions: The Neglected Side of the Story," "Presidents, Institutions, and Theory," “The Presidential Power of Unilateral Action” (with William Howell), “Power and Political Institutions,” “Political Control and the Power of the Agent,” and “Do Politicians Use Policy to Make Politics? The Case of Public Sector Labor Laws” (with Sarah F. Anzia). His most recent work is Relic: How Our Constitution Undermines Effective Government--And Why We Need a More Powerful Presidency (with William Howell, 2016)." He has also written extensively on the politics of American education. His newest books are The Comparative Politics of Education: Teachers Unions and Education Systems Around the World (edited with Susanne Wiborg, forthcoming 2017) and Special Interest: Teachers Unions and America’s Public Schools (2011). His past work on education includes Politics, Markets, and America's Schools (1990) and Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of American Education (2009), both with John E. Chubb, and Schools, Vouchers, and the American Public (2001).