Effective Governing Book a Surprise Bestseller
Author Will Partner with CAP on New Report
SOURCE: Center for American Progress
As antigovernment activists blanketed the National Mall last weekend, the second bestselling political book in Washington stores was a how-to manual for effective governing written by a Republican management consultant and a GOP candidate for the Massachusetts legislature.
If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government, by Deloitte Research Global Director William Eggers and Harvard Kennedy School Fellow John O’Leary, made its debut last week on the Washington Post’s bestseller list 10 months after being published by Harvard Business Press.
The book is aimed at legislators, policymakers, and public-sector managers, and details a five-step “journey to success” for designing and executing major public initiatives. It’s an engaging and accessible read, peppered with vivid anecdotes from the more than 75 initiatives the authors examined, such as Boston’s infamous Big Dig and the “No Child Left Behind” education reform effort.
“In the age of books laden with ideology and politics, the book represents an important first step in thinking differently,” said Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in a December review. “Eggers and O’Leary’s insights are invaluable,” said the Miami Herald in January.
Still, it’s hardly the stuff of popular bestseller lists. The Post’s political books list is typically littered with more tendentious fare, such as Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe’s Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto, which claimed the top spot last week, and Laura Ingraham’s The Obama Diaries, which was number five.
So what gives? Post Book World editor Chris Schoppa attributes the surprise bestseller—the book was also number five on the Post’s general nonfiction list—to a one-time bulk purchase, probably by a government agency. But Schoppa appreciated the irony of its appearance beside former House Republican Majority Leader Armey’s call for a “hostile takeover” of the Republican Party by the antigovernment grassroots. “I just found it amusing that the antithesis was number one and then this book was number two,” Schoppa said in an interview.
Eggers chaired George W. Bush’s government reform panel during his first presidential campaign, and has worked at conservative think tanks such as the Reason Foundation, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and the Heritage Foundation. He said he hopes his book’s themes of operational excellence and focus on execution can help join progressives and conservatives in a common cause. Likewise, O’Leary is campaigning for a GOP seat in the Massachusetts legislature on a platform of government reform, not government evisceration.
“Until small-government types better master the nuts and bolts of the public sector—how to design policies that work in the real world and how to execute on large public undertakings—their initiatives to downsize government will continue to disappoint,” Eggers and Leary wrote earlier this year in a Reason magazine piece titled, “Five Reasons Why Libertarians Shouldn’t Hate Government.”
This focus on execution over ideology is consistent with CAP’s Doing What Works project, which advocates for eliminating misguided spending, improving government execution, and making smarter, evidence-based policy decisions. Our recent poll shows that Americans are more likely to support government efforts to fight poverty and clean the environment if the public sector proves it can get results without wasting taxpayer dollars.
That’s why we’re excited to partner with Eggers later this year on a major report that will expand on one of the key challenges highlighted in his book: designing legislation for effective implementation. CAP Senior Fellow Jitinder Kohli will co-author the report, which stems from interactive brainstorming sessions Eggers and Kohli led at our July conference.
Gadi Dechter is Associate Director of Government Reform at American Progress.
To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:
Print: Katie Peters (economy, education, health care, gun-violence prevention)
202.741.6285 or email@example.com
Print: Anne Shoup (foreign policy and national security, energy, LGBT issues)
202.481.7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Crystal Patterson (immigration)
202.478.6350 or email@example.com
Print: Madeline Meth (women's issues, poverty, Legal Progress)
202.741.6277 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Tanya Arditi (Spanish language and ethnic media)
202.741.6258 or email@example.com
TV: Lindsay Hamilton
202.483.2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Radio: Madeline Meth
202.741.6277 or email@example.com
Web: Andrea Peterson
202.481.8119 or firstname.lastname@example.org