Reasonable people disagree about the reach of the federal government, but almost everyone believes the government should protect us from such dangers as bacteria-infested food, harmful drugs, toxic pollution, crumbling bridges, and unsafe toys. And yet, the agencies that shoulder these responsibilities are in shambles; if they continue to decline, lives will be lost, money wasted, and natural resources squandered. In their timely new book, The People's Agents and the Battle to Protect the Public: Special Interests, Government, and Threats to Health, Safety, and the Environment, Rena Steinzor and Sidney Shapiro take a hard look at the tangled web of problems that have led to the dire state of the American regulatory structure.
In Steinzor and Shapiro’s view, the agencies are not primarily to blame; regulatory failure actually stems from a host of overlooked causes. The authors go beyond the facile analysis that so often dominates media coverage of regulatory failures, with a focus on gross errors by bureaucrats, revealing instead the unrelenting funding cuts, the breakdown of the legislative process, the increase in the number of political appointees, the concurrent loss of experienced personnel, chaotic and interfering White House oversight, and ceaseless political attacks on the bureaucracy. In their estimation, all have contributed to the broken system.
While the news is troubling, the authors propose a host of reforms, including a new model for measuring the success of the agencies and a revitalization of the civil service. The People’s Agents and the Battle to Protect the American Public is an urgent and compelling appeal to renew America’s best traditions of public service.
- Buy the book from the University of Chicago Press as an e-book or in cloth.
- Buy the book from Amazon.com, in cloth.
- Read a Huffington Post blog entry by Sidney Shapiro, taking on House Minority Leader John Beohner's assertion that the Obama regulatory agenda is undercutting economic recovery.
- Read a Q&A with Rena Steinzor on the book in the September 19, 2010 Batimore Sun.
- Read Steinzor's op-ed on the BP oil spill and regulatory failure, "Time for a Regulatory Revival," in the June 18, 2010 Baltimore Sun.
- Read Regulatory Dysfunction: How Insufficient Resources, Outdated Laws, and Political Interference Cripple the "Protector Agencies" (1 meg download), CPR White Paper 906, by CPR Member Scholars Sidney Shapiro and Rena Steinzor, and CPR Policy Analyst Matthew Shudtz, which draws on Steinzor and Shapiro's research for The People's Agents.
- Read the news release about The People's Agents.