Share this

Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better, Peter H. Schuck

Reviewed by Terry M. Moe



Everyone can agree that American government has become dysfunctional in recent years as polarization has immobilized Congress. Peter H. Schuck, however, offers a far broader and more damning assessment. He argues that even during normal political times, the federal government’s policies have failed much more often than not, and its failures “include some of our largest, most durable, most visible, and most fiercely defended programs. Together, they account for a substantial share of total non-defense discretion­ary spending” (p. 371). His purpose in this book is to show, through the marshaling of a massive amount of evidence, that failure is in fact the norm—and to explain why the American system is so incapable of effective action.

Schuck is not the first to bring evidence to bear on federal failures. Others, including Derek Bok and Clifford Winston, have done admirable work on the topic. But Schuck makes a uniquely valuable contribution here because of the sheer weight, scope, and comprehensiveness of the evidence he presents. He covers an astoundingly diverse range of domestic policies—from taxes to immigration to energy to student loans to home mortgages to clean air and much, much more. This is a remarkable feat. His assessment of these pro­grams, moreover, is not only faithful to the voluminous, research-based evi­

To continue reading, see options above.

More by This Author

About PSQ's Editor

Demetrios James Caraley

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

Editor’s spotlight

North Korea and the West

The Debate over North Korea


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

New APS Book

Continuing Issues in U.S. National Security Policy   CONTINUING ISSUES IN U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS