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Good Enough for Government Work: The Public Reputation Crisis in America (And What We Can Do to Fix It), Amy E. Lerman

Reviewed by Mallory E. Sorelle

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The dramatic decline in trust in the U.S. government is one of the most remarkable political trends of the last 40 years, one that seems inexorably tied to increasing attacks on democratic norms, institutions, and public programs. In Good Enough for Government Work: The Public Reputation Crisis in America (And What We Can Do to Fix It), Amy E. Lerman diagnoses the onset of Americans’ collective crisis of confidence in government. Not unlike the problems that private companies experience in the wake of a highly public scandal or product failure, Lerman argues, the U.S. government is in the midst of a decades-long erosion of trust that shapes the way people evaluate public policies and institutions, with severe repercussions.

According to Lerman, the public reputation crisis in the United States can be conceived of as a three-part cycle. In response to both objective failures of government—from Watergate to the flubbed rollout of the Affordable Care Act—and a decades-long effort by libertarian and conservative elites to frame government as wasteful and incompetent, Americans have come to associate “public” with ineffective, ineffi

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