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Promoting the General Welfare

New Perspectives on Government Performance

Edited by Alan S. Gerber and Eric M. Patashnik

The U.S. Constitution calls on the government to “promote the general welfare.” In this provocative and innovative book, a distinguished roster of political scientists and economists evaluates its ability to carry out this task. The first section of the book analyzes government performance in the areas of health, transportation, housing, and education, suggesting why suboptimal policies often prevail. The second set of chapters examines two novel and sometimes controversial tools that can be used to improve policy design: information markets and laboratory experiments. Finally, the third part of the book asks how three key institutions—Congress, the party system, and federalism—affect government’s ability to solve important social problems. These chapters also raise the disturbing possibility that recent political developments have contributed to a decline in governmental problem-solving activity. Taken together, the essays in this volume suggest that opportunities to promote the common good are frequently missed in modern American government. But the book also carries a more hopeful message. By identifying possible solutions to the problems created by weak incentives, poor information, and inadequate institutional capacity, Promoting the General Welfare shows how government performance can be improved. Contributors include Eugene Bardach (University of California-Berkeley), Sarah Binder (Brookings Institution and George Washington University), Morris P. Fiorina (Stanford University), Jay P. Greene (University of Arkansas), Robin Hanson (George Mason University), Charles A. Holt (University of Virginia), David R. Mayhew (Yale University), Edgar O. Olsen (University of Virginia), Mark Carl Rom (Georgetown University), Roberta Romano (Yale Law School), William M. Shobe (University of Virginia), Angela M. Smith (University of Virginia), Aidan R. Vining (Simon Fraser University), David L. Weimer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Clifford Winston (Brookings Institution).

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