The Growth of American Government: Governance from the Cleveland Era to the Present

The Growth of American Government: Governance from the Cleveland Era to the Present

The Growth of American Government: Governance from the Cleveland Era to the Present

The Growth of American Government: Governance from the Cleveland Era to the Present

Synopsis

American government evolved over the generations since the mid-nineteenth century. The changing character of these institutions is a critical part of the history of the United States. This engaging survey focuses on the evolution of public policy and its relationship to the constitutional and political structure of government at the federal, state, and local levels. A new chapter in this revised and updated edition examines the debate about "big government" over the last 20 years.

Excerpt

This updated edition of The Growth of American Government has two principal objectives. The first is to review the course of governance over recent decades, picking up the story from where the initial version of the book ended. My orienting question during this survey was: has the scope and power of government grown? Answering this query requires the inspection of evidence on several dimensions of governance, particularly legislative actions concerning public functions, public finance, administrative capacity, and legal rulings. This objective continues the primary mission of the first edition, which has undergone some rewriting and updating. The new chapter on “The Debate Over ‘Big’ Government” examines key elements of governance over recent decades, but especially since 1992, covering the presidential administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

The second objective is to address an omission in the first edition. With some exceptions, principally the Great Debate during the transition era (1880s– 1920s) and my review of the Reagan years, I had said little about the argument over expansion of government. My original purpose of the book was to trace the course of the governing process over a hundred years, focusing on the accumulation of functions, the evolution of administrative capacity, the restructuring of public finance, and shifts in civic ideology. Although the expansion of government elicited ongoing criticism, I had not emphasized the point. The updated edition gives more attention to this side of the story. Chapter 11 identifies critics of “big” government, reviews their complaints, and suggests reasons for the remarkable resurgence of the Republican Party. As with the first edi-

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