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Why Government Succeeds and Why It Fails

Why Government Succeeds and Why It Fails

Amihai Glazer, Lawrence S. Rothenberg

ISBN 9780674015890

Publication date: 02/15/2005

This book looks beyond politics to show how the ability of the U.S. government to implement policies is strongly affected by various economic constraints. These include the credibility of the policies, the ability of government to commit to them, the extent to which firms and consumers rationally anticipate their effects, whether the success of a policy further encourages firms and individuals to behave in intended ways, and whether the behavior of such actors can be sustained without continued government intervention.

The authors apply these concepts to four areas of policy: macroeconomic policies to promote employment and economic growth, redistributive policies to benefit the poor and the elderly, production policies to provide goods and services, and regulatory policies to guide the behavior of firms and individuals. In doing so they provide plausible explanations of many puzzling phenomena—for example, why government has been successful in reducing cigarette smoking, but has failed to get people to install and maintain emission-control devices in their cars.

This book recasts debates about public policy, avoiding conventional “pro-government” or “anti-government” positions; rather, it helps to predict when public policy will succeed.


  • In their bold effort to explain why government succeeds (and why it fails), Amihai Glazer and Lawrence Rothenberg again prompt us to examine the relationship between politics and policy, this time by setting the ‘political machinations’ of politicians and interest groups to the side in order to ask: How do economic conditions impact the success or failure of a public policy? …More specifically, they argue that an analysis of public policy based upon four economic constraints—credibility, rational expectations, crowding out or in, and multiple equilibria—will help reveal the kinds of problems that government is most likely able to solve, and why.

    —Anne Khademian, Perspectives on Politics


  • Amihai Glazer is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Irvine.
  • Lawrence S. Rothenberg is Max McGraw Distinguished Professor of Management & the Environment and Co-Director of the Ford Motor Company Center for Global Citizenship at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Book Details

  • 224 pages
  • 0-5/8 x 5-5/8 x 8-7/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press