Philip K. Howard

  • Aired:  06/09/14
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"The Rule of Nobody" author Philip K. Howard describes the unexpected paralysis that has afflicted the American government. (6:25)

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, BESTSELLINGAUTHOR, HIS NEW BOOK IS CALLED

"THE RULE OF NOBODY: SAVINGAMERICA FROM DEAD LAWS AND

BROKEN GOVERNMENT".

PLEASE WELCOME BACK TO THEPROGRAM PHILIP K. HOWARD.

SIR.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]I'M EXCITED ABOUT THIS.

I'M EXCITED WHEN YOU COME BY.

ME AND YOU, WE'RE GOING TO FIXTHIS DAMN,

"THE RULE OF NOBODY: SAVINGAMERICA FROM DEAD LAWS AND

BROKEN GOVERNMENT."

WHENEVER WE TALK, I AM STRUCK BYTHE FACT THAT WHEN I READ YOUR

BOOKS, WHEN I LISTEN TO YOUSPEAK, I CAN'T HELP BUT THINK OF

US AS A NATION OF IDIOTS.

[LAUGHTER]WHAT HAS GONE WRONG WITH THE

PEOPLE OF GOOD INTENTION?

BECAUSE I THINK WE ARE STILL APEOPLE OF GOOD INTENTION.

>> WELL, AT SOME LEVEL DEEP INOUR ID, WE DON'T WANT ANYONE

ELSE TO MAKE A DECISION, SO WETRIED TO CREATE A SYSTEM OF

AUTOMATIC GOVERNMENT WHERECORRECTNESS WOULD BE LAID OUT IN

ADVANCE AND EVERYTHING WOULD BEPERFECT AND NO ONE WOULD BE

UNHAPPY AT THEIR JOBS.

YOU KNOW, AND GOVERNMENT WOULDNEVER MAKE A MISTAKE.

OF COURSE, THE PROBLEM IS INMAKING THAT SYSTEM, GOVERNMENT

DOES NOTHING BUT MAKE MISTAKES.

>> JON: SO WE HAVE, IN ANATTEMPT TO CONTROL FOR EACH

OUTCOME, HAVE CREATED ANUNEXPECTED OUTCOME THAT WE

DIDN'T INTEND TO CREATE?

>> RIGHT.

PARALYSIS.

>> Jon: YES.

[LAUGHTER]BUT IS THE ANSWER THEN... ARE

OUR ONLY TWO CHOICES APARALYZED, BUREAUCRATIC SATIRE

OF A GOVERNMENT OR AN 1890SSIX-YEAR-OLDS?

SURE.

THEY CAN WORK IN MINES.

YOU KNOW, WHAT IS OUR, WHATIS OUR MIDDLE GROUND?

WHERE DO WE GO?

>> THE MIDDLE GROUND IS... THECONSTITUTION IS AN OPEN

FRAMEWORK OF GOALS ANDPRINCIPLES.

IT'S TEN PAGES LONG.

THE VOLCKER RULE IS 980 PAGES.

LAW IS SUPPOSED TO BE AFRAMEWORK WITHIN WHICH PEOPLE

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

AND THEN YOU HOLD IN THEDEMOCRATIC PROCESS PEOPLE

RESPONSIBLE FOR WHETHER THEYSUCCEED IN RUNNING THE AGENCY

PROPERLY OR WHATEVER.

BUT WE HAVE TAKEN AWAY THEAUTHORITY THAT GOES WITH THE

RESPONSIBILITY WITH LITERALLYHUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF WORDS OF

LAW, SO THAT IT'S BECOME THISVAST VAT OF LEGAL QUICKSAND.

IT GETS THICKER EVERY YEAR.

IT'S A PROGRESSIVE DISEASE.

IT IS WORSE NOW THAN IT WAS 20YEARS AGO.

IT WILL BE WORSE NEXT YEAR.

>> Jon: BUT WHY CAN'T WE GO IN,TO USE A GEORGE BUSH PARLANCE,

AND CLEAR THE BRUSH?

[LAUGHTER]WHY CAN'T WE GO IN THERE AND

CLEAR SOME OF THE DEAD WOOD?

IS THERE ANYONE WHO CAN EXERCISEANY SENSE OF ADMINISTRATIVE

AUTHORITY OR BUREAUCRATICAUTHORITY?

>> NOT UNTIL WE HAVE THE IDEATHAT WE NEED TO GO CLEAN IT OUT

AND RESTORE, ONE, HUMANRESPONSIBILITY AND RESET OUR

PRIORITIES.

WHAT WE NOW HAVE IS ALL THESELAWS PILING ON TOP OF EACH OTHER

WITH INCREASING AMOUNTS OFDETAIL, SO THAT DEMOCRACY AT

THIS POINT IS BASICALLY RUN BYDEAD PEOPLE.

IT'S THE PEOPLE WHO WROTE ALL OFTHESE LAWS OVER THE LAST 30, 40,

50, 60 YEARS THAT LITERALLYDICTATE HOW YOU RUN THE V.A. OR

HOW YOU DO PROCUREMENT OF I.T.

SYSTEMS.

>> Jon: BUT IS THERE NO PROCESSIN PLACE WHERE COMMON SENSE --

THE V.A. IS AN EXCELLENTEXAMPLE.

THERE'S A HUGE BACKLOG.

THEY DECIDE TO INCENTIVIZEQUICKER WAIT TIMES AT THE LOCAL

V.A.S WHILE INCREASING THENUMBER OF BENEFITS AVAILABLE TO

PEOPLE AND CLEARLY INCREASINGTHE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO NEED

TREATMENT THROUGH TWO WARS.

DOES ANYONE HAVE A MACRO VIEW OFTHAT AND THINK, OH, THOSE ARE

ALL AT CROSS-PURPOSES.

WE'RE NEVER GOING TO BE ABLE TOACCOMPLISH THAT?

>> APPARENTLY NOT.

[LAUGHTER]>> Jon: ALL RIGHT.

I THOUGHT THERE WOULD BE ALITTLE MORE DETAIL IN THAT.

ALL RIGHT.

I THOUGHT WE'D GET INTO ALITTLE BIT OF THE NITTY-GRITTY.

BUT ISN'T THAT WHAT... THEN WHATARE THEY DOING?

>> THEY'RE SETTING METRICS ANDPUTTING IN ALL THESE RULES AND

EXPECT THAT PEOPLE CAN COMPLYWITH ALL THE RULES AND GET THE

JOB DONE.

THAT'S NOT HOW ANYBODY... NOT INTHE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE HAS

ANYONE ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING BYFOLLOWING A RULE.

THEY ROLL UP THEIR SLEEVES, THEYTAKE RESPONSIBILITY, AND THEY

FIGURE OUT WHAT THE RESOURCESARE TO TAKE CARE OF THE V.A.,

AND THEY DO THE BEST JOB ANDTHAT REPORT AND SAY, YOU KNOW,

IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP THEWAITING TIMES TO 14 DAYS IF WE

HAVE BACKLOG OF 1,000 PEOPLEHERE.

AND THEY ACTUALLY REPORTHONESTLY AND THEY'RE HELD

ACCOUNTABLE FOR HOW WELL THEY DOGIVEN THE RESOURCES, NOT SOME

ARBITRARY METRIC, WHICH IS WHATHAPPENED HERE.

>> Jon: SO ARE STANDARDS ALWAYSANATHEMA? CAN YOU NEVER RELY ON,

LIKE, I'LL GIVE YOU ANEXAMPLE OF SOMEBODY IN

THE CITY, AND THIS MAY BE A POORONE, OUR GRADING

SYSTEM ON RESTAURANTS-- A, B, C, D.

I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU NEED TO DOTO GET THAT GRADE, BUT I WILL

TELL YOU THIS: I STOPPED EATINGAT B'S ABOUT A YEAR AGO.

[LAUGHTER]IT FEELS LIKE IT'S WORKING.

IT FEELS LIKE A BUREAUCRATICSYSTEM THAT HAS SET SOME

STANDARDS TO ACHIEVE AND HASDONE IT, AND IT'S SIMPLE AND

IT'S THE ALPHABET.

LORD KNOWS I LOVE THE ALPHABET.

[LAUGHTER]>> YEAH.

WELL, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT LAWBE COMPREHENSIBLE, AND IT IS

IMPORTANT THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE INCHARGE OF LAW, THE BUREAUCRATS,

WHOEVER, BE ABLE TO EXERCISETHEIR RESPONSIBILITY IN

DETERMINING WHETHER A RESTAURANTMEETS SANITARY CODES AND SUCH,

AND THEY GIVE US A LETTER GRADEAND THE PUBLIC CAN SEE THAT IT

HAS A LETTER GRADE AND THAT CANMAKE A JUDGMENT.

THAT'S... GOVERNMENT SHOULD WORKTHAT WAY.

>> SO FROM WHAT I'M HEARING, THEWAY WE FIX THIS IS EVERYBODY

GETS A GRADE, A THROUGH F, ANDWE JUST START WEEDING THROUGH

THE DAMN THINGS.

WE'VE GOT GO TO COMMERCIAL, BUTON THE WEB YOU'LL EXPLAIN HOW

THAT WILL WORK CORRECTLY, YES?

>> YES.

>> Jon: GOOD MAN.

"THE RULE OF NOBODY," IT'S ONBOOKSHELVES NOW.

IT'S GREAT.

YOU GOT TO GET IT, AS ALWAYS.

PHILIP K. HOWARD.

WE'LL BE BACK.

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