Phillip K. Howard, a leader of government and legal reform in America and author of The Rule of Nobody and The Death of Common Sense, will speak at Wesleyan on Feb. 4. His talk, titled, “Can American Government Be Fixed?” will be at 4:30 p.m. in PAC002.
Howard will argue that looking for new leaders is a fool’s errand until we restore their ability to lead. Modern government is structurally paralyzed by the accretion of dense bureaucracy. From the school house to the White House, people with responsibility find themselves mired in legal quicksand. An aging democracy is part of the problem — obsolete programs are defended by armies of special interests.
The main cause of paralysis, Howard will argue, is a public philosophy that law should not only set goals, but instruct people how to do things properly. The granularity of modern bureaucracy prevents everyone — officials and citizens alike–from taking responsibility. Public paralysis is one effect. An increasingly amoral culture is another. Instead of asking “What’s the right thing to do?” Americans are trained to ask “What does the rule require? ”
The talk is sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.