There are nearly 90,000 governments in the United States, with a new one born every 18 hours.
Mark Zupan PhD ’87 has devoted his career to studying the political economy and microeconomics. In his new book, Inside Job: How Government Insiders Subvert the Public Interest, Zupan reflects on the efficiencies and inefficiencies of governments at all levels: city, state, regional, and federal.
In this alumni books podcast, Zupan, President of Alfred University, discusses his new book. Listen to the interview above.
With one guiding formula for the entire book, Zupan makes a case for how a government of the people can be a government for the people. Crediting democracies over autocracies with generally scoring better on independent measures of government accountability, Zupan nevertheless found plenty to improve within democracies around the world where insiders are given too much leeway and profit from their “service” to government.
Zupan takes the rhetoric of politicians going to Washington to “drain the swamp” with a measured stride.
“We’re at an all-time low right now in the percentage of citizens that trust the government most of the time or all of the time,” says Zupan. “What we're seeing now with the Drumpf administration, it's a different thing once you're in the swamp from when you're casting stones from outside the swamp. And it’s something our founders worried about.”
Zupan credits some of history’s best government insiders with bringing about radical changes that had profound impacts. City planner Robert Moses’s rise to power in New York City, for instance, brought arguably great public works projects to the city and changed its landscape forever. South Africa’s Nelson Mandela used his insider knowledge of the system to advance his own government towards a more stable post-Apartheid country.
But profit-seekers in democracies and autocrats of many types make the sternest cautionary tales in Zupan’s book. Insiders are more frequently the cause of what Zupan says are a government’s hardened arteries. Special interests subvert insiders like over-replicating DNA to “harm the body politic.”