In her book, The End of Government..As We Know It, Elaine Kamarck discusses some of the criticisms of government in general and some of the ways that she thinks things will be changing in the near future. She notes that over the last few decades, it has become much more popular for people to see that government is a problem. As Ronald Reagan said, it is not the solution to people’s problems, but rather, the source of them. This author traces the development of those arguments, finding that across developed and undeveloped nations, these criticisms have largely been prevalent. The author believes that while people might think they are not in favor of government, they are really against bad government, and by bad government she means the red tape that is constantly inherent when government is trying to get anything.

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This book is about a world after the red tape, where new innovations in technology can provide government with the ability to get things done and serve the needs of the people. In this book, she notes that the changes in the world will require government to be responsive, but in her view, government is a body well-equipped to handle these challenges as long as it does a few distinct things to put itself in a good position to do so.

The primary arguments in the book, or the so-called thesis, have to do with the changing role of government. She argues that in the post-bureaucratic era, government will have many different options at its disposal that it can use to put into place good policy, and it will be incumbent upon government to make the right choices on how to implement policy changes. There exists within this book a distinct argument about the way that the new world will impact government. For one, the author argues, information will continue to get better, and more importantly, our collective ability to deal with that information will get better at the same time. While this will not necessarily result in better policy results, it should allow the government more opportunities to get things right when dealing with policy. This, she argues, will help to quell some of the problems that people currently have with government, as government will get better and better at responding to their needs over time.

What will be hard, though, is figuring out exactly which way to approach problems with new-age solutions. When so many different implementation options are available, government might get overwhelmed, and besides, who is going to be in charge of making sure that the right decision is made? The thesis centers on the concept that for every policy problem that is faced in the United States, there will be a mode of implementation that matches problem that provides a much better opportunity for the country to move forward. She sees the government as having the primary responsibility of selecting not just any policy solution, but rather, the right implementation mode.

In looking through the various arguments made by the author, one can pull out a number of golden nuggets – those quotations that help to tell the story of the book and get across an important concept to people who might not be able to read the book. One of her nuggets focuses on the way in which government will not simply lag behind in the new era. Perhaps one can look at the campaign attempts of Barack Obama as evidence of this point, and she believes that in the future, government will lead the way in innovation, mostly because it will have to. Of this, she argues that governments in the new age will be held accountable based upon how they implement policy given all of their options. She details the challenges that will eventually be faced by governments in the new age. As mentioned, one of the challenges that she believes will be especially relevant is finding the right implementation modes to meet the goals of the policy initiative. With that in mind, she consistently uses the phrase “matching means to ends” in order to describe what the government will have to do (Kamarck; p.21). She hammers home this quote time and again, stressing the importance of finding the right fit in order to make resources go as far as possible.

In addition, she notes that in the future, smart, credible people will be required to run government as there is going to be much more temptation for nefarious activity. With more information and more possibilities also comes many more risks for government, so it is incumbent upon the voting public to install people into office who can be trusted to handle the tools that they will undoubtedly be handed. She wrote of new governments, “Each one is open to great creativity and innovation and susceptible to great cheating and stealing from the public purse” (Kamarck; p.42). This, of course, is designed to show the duality of the new age. Not all that glitters is gold, so there are risks that must be accounted for as government charges forward.

Perhaps the best thing about this work, and the real strength of her argument, is that she uses her knowledge of American government to connect this book to actual governance. When speaking about the future, there is a tendency in writers to get theoretical and hypothetical. This does not happen so much in this book, as she grounds her analysis in connections to real governance. She does this by using examples that are easy to understand for people who have some familiarity with government. This makes the work highly accessible even to those who are not intimately familiar with the workings of government. Another strength could be the author’s overall concern for the leadership of the United States. This book takes a hard look at what leaders must be and what they must do in order to have long-term success, an idea that is certainly needed.

As far as weaknesses are concerned, there is a strong tendency here to approach this topic from an American-centric perspective. This is nature because it is what the author knows. This does detract at least some from the overall applicability of this book. It had an opportunity, it seems, to be the kind of book that could reflect on government at large rather than reflecting on the implications of these changes for American government. The author does make a passing attempt at trying to relate this book to other situations around the world, but the bulk of the arguments address things from the American angle.

In terms of how this book could potentially be used for practical policy purposes, one must look at the potential for the use of information technology. This book provides insights into how IT will be important in the future. It notes that the leaders of the future will not be able to just sit around and talk about what might work, but rather, they will be charged with the duty of going out and finding what will work. This means using technology in order to figure out which solutions will best match policy problems. Likewise, this should stress to individual politicians the importance of having smart people around them. One of the author’s main points is that in the future, the people who operate best at government will be those who are smart and skilled. It will be more like the private business world, where businesses rise and fall based upon the strength of the people that they have working on their behalf.

The same will basically be true of government, so those who are in charge of government will need to ensure that they put as much time and effort into staffing as possible. This does not just mean that they need to think more about making proper appointments. That is only a small part of the equation. A bigger part will be having capable people around them in a ministerial capacity. Database programmers and the like will be important for putting together computer systems that can run all of the data. Likewise, politicians will have to start to be fluent in this kind of language. They will not be able to rely on old systems and old mechanisms for processing data. Rather, it will be incumbent upon them to come up with new, innovative ways to get the job done.

Likewise, this book does have a tendency to weaken the arguments against government in a way that might not be historically fair. She tends to reduce people down to not liking government because of all of the incompetence and red tape associated with it. This is not exactly true. While some do not like government for these distinct reasons, others have legitimate complaints about the power and role of government. These people might not like government even if government was using technology well and accomplishing its goals. By limiting and reducing the arguments here, she is creating a straw man of sorts.