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Administrative Burden: Policymaking by Other Means, Pamela Herd and Donald P. Moynihan

Reviewed by John Sivolella

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Administrative burdens matter in the United States. They impose costs that affect how individuals fare in society and perceive their federal government. Yet scholars had not developed a theoretical framework addressing how burdens impact public policy and, ultimately, people—until now.

Pamela Herd and Donald P. Moynihan stake a claim by presenting their framework explaining how burdens affect the interactions of individuals with their government. They make strong and provocative arguments, well supported with case studies, that burdens are not inherent and inevitable in public policymaking. Instead, they argue, burdens are administrative and political choices that are often intentionally distributive to have disparate impacts on different groups.

Their core conclusion is that policymaking can be reinvigorated with a paradigm shift prioritizing the elimination of administrative burdens on individuals in their interactions with the federal government. They take this a step further by asserting that agencies must have sufficient “capacity” to manage programs to eliminate most burdens to make government more “simple, accessible and respectful” (p. 14).

In an extended period of lack of public trust in the

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