Demosclerosis, by Jonathan Rauch
“Demosclerosis,” in Jonathan Rauch’s diagnosis, is “government’s progressive loss of the ability to adapt.” Ever since World War II, he maintains, powerful underlying social forces have intersected with a structural weakness in modern democratic politics to allow entrenched interests to dominate government. This brief but sweeping book, by a contributing editor of the National Journal, is an attempt to describe and analyze those forces. Rauch’s hope is that if we cannot liberate ourselves from their grip, we can at least prevent them from choking off whatever vitality remains in American life.
Taking as his departure point Mancur Olson’s classic study of political economy, The Logic of Collective Action (1965), Rauch argues here that as the share of the American economy under government control has increased, the potential benefits accruing to organizations (and their members) have soared, while the cost of forming and maintaining organizations has declined. The result is that Americans have divided themselves into ever more numerous, large, and powerful groups, each willing to exploit the power of government to advance its own claims on the nation’s resources.
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