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A Government Ill Executed

A Government Ill Executed

The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It

Paul C. Light

ISBN 9780674034785

Publication date: 09/30/2009

The federal government is having increasing difficulty faithfully executing the laws, which is what Alexander Hamilton called “the true test” of a good government. This book diagnoses the symptoms, explains their general causes, and proposes ways to improve the effectiveness of the federal government. Employing Hamilton’s seven measures of an energetic federal service, Paul Light shows how the government is wanting in each measure.

After assessing the federal report card, Light offers a comprehensive agenda for reform, including new laws limiting the number of political appointees, reducing the layers of government management, reducing the size of government as its Baby Boom employees retire, revitalizing the federal career, and reducing the heavy outsourcing of federal work. Although there are many ways to fix each of the seven problems with government, only a comprehensive agenda will bring the kind of reform needed to reverse the overall erosion of the capacity to faithfully execute all the laws.


  • The next administration had best heed Light’s call to focus on getting a coherent, shorter nomination and confirmation process that encourages talented people to sign up for government service.

    —Al Kamen, Washington Post


  • Paul C. Light is Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service at New York University.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press
  • Foreword by Paul A. Volcker