New book published: Government for the Public Good

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book, Government for the Public Good: The Surprising Science of Large-Scale Collective Action. It is available from all good bookstores and online.

The culmination of several years’ work, it goes right to the heart of one of the dominant ideas of the last few decades – that markets should take over more of the tasks previously done by governments.

It subjects that claim to a kind of scrutiny that is all too rare in public discussion. Instead of arguing from anecdotes or one-off examples, it looks deeply at the latest, most reliable evidence about the performance of privatisation, deregulation and other market-based reforms of the last 40 years.

Presenting this evidence in an engaging, fast-paced style, the book argues that, although there have been some privatisation successes, by and large the more-market reforms have failed to deliver the promised better services at lower price.

In contrast, classic public services – delivered collectively and drawing on strengths such as the power of public discussion, altruism and economies of scale – have often proved far more effective than we generally think.

These findings matter, because people’s confidence in government determine how much it will be allowed to do to address the big challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change and the rise of the robots.

The book sets the stage for a renewal of active government – but also argues that government will have to be still better, if it is to meet modern expectations and retain public trust. And the best route to that improvement lies with the deepening democracy. The book shows how, around the world, forums that allow citizens to intelligently debate issues together and directly shape policy are already delivering that kind of improved government.

You can read more about the book here.

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