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Can Government Do Anything Right?

Hardback By Alasdair Roberts
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Product Description

Across the Western world, people are angry about the inability of government to perform basic functions competently. With widespread evidence of policy failures at home and ill-conceived wars and interventions abroad, it is hardly surprising that politicians are distrusted and government is derided as a sprawling, wasteful mess. But what exactly is government supposed to do, and is the track record of Western governments really so awful?

In this compelling book, leading scholar of public policy and management, Alasdair Roberts, explores what government does well and what it does badly. Political leaders, he explains, have always been obliged to wrestle with shifting circumstances and contending priorities, making the job of governing extraordinarily difficult. The performance of western democracies in recent decades is, admittedly, far from perfect but - as Roberts ably shows - it is also much better than you might think.

Product Details

Format: Hardback, 144 pages Language: English
Dimension: 19.3cm x 12.45cm x 1.52cm ISBN10: 150952150X
Weight: 227g ISBN13: 9781509521500
Publication Date: 02 Feb 2018 Publisher: Polity Press

About Author

Alasdair Roberts is the Director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Product Reviews


“This contrarian work is a welcome corrective to the doom and gloom commentary that is so common today. Not only that, it's a good read as well. It will get an intensive workout in college seminars.” Morris P. Fiorina, Stanford University “Governing, particularly in democracies, is difficult and often frustrating work. In this vital new book, Alasdair Roberts makes a convincing case that Western governments have been largely effective at addressing the challenges they face.” Stephen K. Medvic, Franklin & Marshall College"In a world dominated by narratives of democratic crisis and decline Alasdair Roberts reveals the innate complexities of modern governance and political statecraft. In a book that is as clear and accessible as it is intellectually thoughtful and provocative, Roberts offers a positive and optimistic account of contemporary politics. It offers an energising breadth of fresh air in what is otherwise a fairly gloomy scholarly space."Matthew Flinders is Professor of Politics and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield. He is also President of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom.

‘Alasdair Roberts' pithy, accessible, and refreshingly non-partisan book offers a pragmatic yet optimistic view of the benefits and future of government.

  While thoughtfully acknowledging a broad range of complaints about the representativeness and effectiveness of Western democracies, Roberts persuasively counters by pointing out the undeniable progress and accomplishments of these governments.

  His broad thesis -- that democratic institutions work because they adapt to changing circumstances, often in unexpected ways – should provide both hope and inspiration to students and readers who despair about our current situation.

’Sherry Glied, Dean, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University"This book is an ideal vehicle for challenging students to look beyond current events and to reflect upon the role of government in addressing some of our society’s biggest challenges over a broad arc of history. Roberts provides a sober account of the challenges facing the United States and other western democracies today, but engages readers in the possibility that governments are up to the challenge of adapting their governing strategies to respond to these problems. The crisp, concise book will surely foster reflection and dialogue."Eric Zeemering, University of Georgia "A remarkably clear and well written book that makes a compelling argument against conventional orthodoxy.

   I have used it with great success in my introductory course in political science".

Jonathan Rose, Queen’s University


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