Relaciones Internacionales – Comunicación Internacional

Why Government Fails and How to Stop It

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The federal government celebrates many quiet victories every day. But when it comes to making headlines, it’s no secret that government failures—not success stories—are more likely to show up on the front page.

In a new research paper, Why Government Fails and How to Stop It, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light identifies and ranks 41 important past government failures from 2001 to 2014.

Brookings Governance Studies has developed an interactive that illuminates patterns and characteristics of these significant government failures, as well as important contributing factors to their occurrence. Some failures were small, but received an inordinate amount of media coverage. Others were larger in scale but garnered less interest from the public.

Explore the interactive to learn more:

See Where Government Failed

Click on the figure for the Interactive Data

After surveying the data, Light argues that government actors must take the following actions to prevent or alleviate future crises:

1. Think about policy effectiveness from the start
2. Provide the funding, staff, and collateral capacity to succeed
3. Flatten the chain of command and cut the bloat
4. Select presidential appointees for their effectiveness, not connections
5. Sharpen the mission

Again, you can read the full paper here or explore the interactive here. Thanks for your interest in research from Governance Studies at Brookings.


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