Government and Communication

* The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good. Robert H. Frank (Prof of Economics, Cornell U; Distinguished Fellow, Demos). Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press, 2011; Oct 2012 edition with new afterword, 272p, $16.95pb. Within the next century Charles Darwin will unseat Adam Smith as the intellectual founder of economics, because Darwin’s understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Smith’s. Economic competition often leads to “arms races,” encouraging behaviors that not only cause enormous harm to the group but also provide no lasting advantages for individuals, since any gains tend to be relative and mutually offsetting. To tame the Darwin economy, we need not prohibit harmful behaviors but to tax them. By doing so, we could make the economic pie larger, eliminate government debt, and provide better public services without requiring painful sacrifices from anyone.  (ECONOMY *  TAXATION FOR THE COMMON GOOD) 
The Upside-Down Constitution.  Michael S. Greve (Searle Scholar, American Enterprise Institute).  Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press, Feb 2012, 510p, $49.95 (also as e-book).  Over the course of US history, the Constitution has been turned upside-down. The Constitution’s vision of a federalism in which local, state, and federal government compete to satisfy the preferences of individuals has given way to a cooperative, cartelized federalism that enables interest groups to leverage power at every level for their own benefit.   Thus the trend to toward more government and fiscal profligacy.  Taking aim at both the progressive heirs of the New Deal and the vocal originalists of our own time, Greve explains why the current fiscal crisis will soon compel a fundamental renegotiation of a new federalism grounded in constitutional principles.
Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People.  Lynn A. Stout (Prof of Corporate and Securities Law, UCLA).  Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press, Nov 2010, 296p, $27.95.  Rather than lean on the power of greed to shape laws and human behavior, we should rely on conscience, which is a vital force in our lives.  Drawing from social psychology, behavioral economics, and evolutionary biology, Stout demonstrates how social cues trigger unselfish behavior and argues that the legal system should use these cues.  Current emphasis on self-interest may have contributed to the recent catastrophic political missteps and financial scandals by encouraging corrupt and selfish actions, and undermining society’s moral compass.
Legality.  Scott J. Shapiro (Prof of Law, Yale U).   Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press/Belknap Press, Jan 2011/360p/$39.95.  Offers a ground-breaking new theory of law and defends classical jurisprudence. Argues that legal systems are not defined by rules but by plans: thinking about laws as plans resolves many vexing puzzles about the nature of law and has profound implications for the practice of legal interpretation.       (GOVERNANCE * LEGAL SYSTEMS * LAWS AS PLANS)
Communication PowerManuel Castells (Prof of Communication, USC; Distinguished Visiting Prof, MIT & Oxford U). NY: Oxford UP, Sept 2009/608p/$34.95. A leading communication theorist and author of The Information Age trilogy argues that power now lies in the hands of those who understand or control communication; also discusses the new network society of instant messaging, global media deregulation, the role of the Internet in the Obama campaign for president, media control in China and Russia, and the worldwide crisis of political legitimacy.                                        (COMMUNICATION * WORLD POLITICS)
Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful. Beth Simone Noveck (Prof of Law, NYU). Washington: Brookings Institution Press, June 2009/224p/$28.95. Shows how collaborative democracy can be designed, and how it opens policymaking to greater participation; includes a case study of inviting the public to join in examining patent applications, radically transforming the process, and proposes policy wikis and civic juries.        (GOVERNANCE * DEMOCRACY)
The Democracy Index: Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix ItHeather K. Gerken (Prof of Election Law, Yale Law School). Princeton UP, May 2009/216p/$24.95. Diagnoses what is wrong with US elections and proposes a radically new and simple solution with incentives for reform: a Democracy Index that rates the performance of state and local elections systems, similar to the USN&WR annual ranking of colleges and universities; indicators would include how long it takes to vote, how many ballots are discarded, how often voting machines break down, etc.                                              (GOVERNMENT * ELECTIONS)
The Constitution in 2020. Edited by Jack Balkin and Reva Siegel (both Profs of Law, Yale U). NY: Oxford UP, June 2009/336p/$19.95pb. Offers a blueprint for implementing a more progressive vision of constitutional law in the years ahead, considering the challenge of new technologies, presidential power, international human rights, religious liberty, freedom of speech, voting, reproductive rights, and economic rights. [Also see A More Perfect Constitution: 23 Proposals by Larry J. Sabato (Walker & Co, 2007) and A Bill of Rights for 21st Century America by Joseph F. Coates (Kanawha Institute, 2007.]
The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being.  Derek Bok (Research Prof and former President, Harvard U).  Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press, March 2010, 262p, $24.95.  During the past 40 years, thousands of studies have been conducted on happiness.  “Happiness research is most interesting when its results challenge conventional wisdom about what people want”; for instance, societies experiencing higher income are not necessarily happier.  Shows how governments could use happiness research in a variety of policy areas—economic growth, equality, retirement, unemployment, health care, mental illness, family programs, education, and government quality— to increase well-being and improve the quality of life for all citizens.  [Also see Society Without God by Phil Zuckerman; NYU Press, June 2010, on high contentment in godless Denmark and Sweden.]
Policy and Choice: Public Finance through the Lens of Behavioral Economics.  William J. Congdon (research director, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution), Jeffrey R. Kling (associate director, Congressional Budget Office), and Sendhil Mullainathan (Prof of Economics, Harvard U).  Washington: Brookings Institution Press, Jan 2011/ 240p/ $29.95.  Behavioral economics, integrating psychology and economics, has shown “tremendous promise” for informing economic policy in recent years, upending the standard economic analysis of government policy.  Public finance —the study of government’s role in the economy— can incorporate many lessons of behavioral economics, e.g. accounting for challenges such as procrastination, indecision, retirement savings, college financial aid, etc..  Discusses asymmetric information, poverty and inequality, externalities and public goods, taxation, and revenue.
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