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Government's End

by Jonathan Rauch

Available at Amazon.com

Revised, rethought, expanded...the book that explains why government has lost its grip

"This book is a godsend."
      --David S. Broder

What ails our government? In 1994, Jonathan Rauch's Demosclerosis changed the way people think about government. Probing deep into the realm of theory as well as surveying the then-current scene in vivid and often funny detail, it propounded a radical new view of Washington's problems. Over time, slowly but inexorably, interest groups accumulate in society and defend government programs that, once entrenched, never go away. As the government's arteries clog, it loses the flexibility to adapt to a changing world and solve problems.

In Government's End from PublicAffairs Books, the author has revised, rethought, and deepened those ideas in a book that first looks back at 20 years of failed reforms, and then ahead toward a new, more productive entente between citizens and their government.

With five of the book's ten chapters all or partly new, Government's End

  • assesses the failed reform efforts of Reagan, Clinton and Gingrich, and explains why each attempt fared worse than the last;

  • takes a more audacious view of the problem than did the original book, arguing that American politicians--and voters--today have much less control over government than they realize;

  • takes a more measured view of the solution, arguing that "radical incrementalism" is the key to a more productive and less pathological relationship between Americans and their government.

Still present in the book are the elements that have made it especially valuable to students and teachers of government: its clear explication of public-choice theory and the problems of collective action; its tracing of the proliferation of pressure groups since the 1960s and its analysis of the resulting "parasite economy" in Washington; its provocative theory of "demosclerosis"; and its outline of reforms that can make government more flexible and effective.

Reviews praised Demosclerosis as an important and original work on American government. In Government's End, that book is reborn and for a new century.

Contents of Government's End













"To those who would understand the reasons why Washington does not work, and to those who are seeking clues to end gridlock for more than a brief spell, this book is a godsend. Rauch knows Washington well, and what's more, he knows what ails it."

-- David S. Broder

"Demosclerosis is an extraordinary feat of applied social science. We are in awful shape at every level of government. Stability is giving way to entropy. That is the bad news. The good news is that much of this can be accounted for. What can be understood can be changed."

-- Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

"Jonathan Rauch paints a bleak but true picture of our nation's fate unless our political process can free itself from the grip of narrow interests. The challenge to all of us as citizens is to revitalize the idea that democracy can build a common future, not just serve our short-term individual interests."

-- Former Senator Bill Bradley

"America's political lexicon is enriched by the new noun 'demosclerosis.' It denotes the disease that saps the strength while swelling the size of modern government. Jonathan Rauch's detailed, lively and mordant essay points beyond diagnosis of that disease, toward therapy."

-- George F. Will

"With pith and vigor, he has written an incisive analysis of what ails our political culture, a dark critique of Washington which makes the Madisonian virtues of interest-group democracy seem like an antique charm of a bygone era."

--Jonathan Dorfman, Washington Post Book World

"Sophistication and wit...mark this excellent book from front page to last."


"The most compelling work on government and politics that I've read in some time."

--John Case, Boston Globe

"Mr. Rauch makes his argument in an attractive, accessible way... There are anecdotes galore, and in this case they are not funny. They are distressing. But the nice thing is that even political professionals--and political junkies--can come away from this quick read having learned a little something about how the government works, or, more precisely, how it doesn't."

--David Shribman, New York Times Book Review

"What he says is well worth the consideration of thoughtful people from all parts of the political spectrum who care about the long-run health of the American political system."

--Nelson W. Polsby, San Francisco Chronicle

"Rauch's book...stands a good chance of redirecting the entire debate over government reform in the months to come."

--Alan Ehrenhalt, Governing Magazine

"Rauch offers a fresh, troubling explanation for why Washington doesn't work."

--Chuck Alston, The New Democrat

"A terrific examination of special-interest politics. This is perhaps the best single book of the decade on how special-interest politics has undermined the functioning--and moral stature--of government."

--Glenn H. Reynolds, University of Tennessee, Amazon.com


JONATHAN RAUCH, a senior writer and columnist for National Journal magazine in Washington, is the author of three books and many articles on public policy, culture, and economics. He writes a biweekly column for National Journal called "Social Studies," on culture, politics and law. He is also a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution, a leading Washington think-tank.

Among the many publications for which he has written are New Republic, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Reason, Fortune, Reader's Digest, U.S. News & World Report, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Slate, and others.

His previous books include "The Outnation: A Search for the Soul of Japan" (1992) and "Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought" (1993). He is also co-author, with Robert Litan, of "American Finance for the 21st Century" (1998).

Rauch was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated in 1982 from Yale University. In 1996 he was awarded the Premio Napoli alla Stampa Estera for his coverage, in The Economist, of the European Parliament. He has appeared as a guest on many television and radio programs, and in 1989 was named by Washingtonian magazine as a "rising star of Washington journalism."

Also by Jonathan Rauch

Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought

Tracing attacks on free speech from Plato's Republic to America's campuses and newsrooms, Jonathan Rauch provides an engaging and provocative response to those who would limit free thought by restricting hurtful speech. Rauch explores how the system for producing knowledge works in a liberal society, and why it has now become the object of a powerful ideological attack. Moving beyond the First Amendment, he defends the morality, rather than the legality, of an intellectual system that relies on unfettered and often hurtful criticism. Kindly Inquisitors is a refreshing and vibrant essay, casting provocative light on the raging debates over political correctness and multiculturalism.

"Jonathan Rauch--remember the name; you will want to encounter it often--is rising to eminence in American social commentary. This slender but potent volume shows why he deserves to rise."

--George F. Will

"Fiercely argued.... What sets his study apart is his attempt to situate recent developments in a long-range historical perspective and to defend the system of free intellectual inquiry as a socially productive method of channeling prejudice."

--Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

"Like no other, this book restates the core of our freedom and demonstrates how great, and disregarded, the peril to that freedom has become."

--Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

"Stands out as a thoughtful, provocative defense of civil liberties and liberal inquiry. Rauch's unique perspective, derived from personal experience, lends to the poignancy of his thesis."

--William F. Weld, former Governor of Massachusetts

"A compelling defense of free speech against its new enemies, who range from the mosques of Iran to the groves of American academe."

--Kirkus Reviews

Buy the book from Amazon.com


American Finance for the 21st Century

By Robert E. Litan with Jonathan Rauch

"Litan and Rauch's keen analysis of the past lead them to a bold vision for America's financial future. If you want to know where we may be heading, and why, read this book."

--Alan S. Blinder, Former Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve Board

Buy the book at Amazon.com

Revised March 7, 2005.