Book Forum

What Washington Gets Wrong: The Unelected Officials Who Actually Run the Government and Their Misconceptions about the American People

(Prometheus Books, 2016)

Watch the Event
Date and Time
December 1, 2016 1 - 2:30 PM EST
Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute
Featuring the authors Jennifer Bachner, Director, Master of Science in Government Analytics, Johns Hopkins University; and Benjamin Ginsberg, David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of Governmental Studies, Johns Hopkins University; with comments by Donald Kettl, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; moderated by John Samples, Vice President and Publisher, Cato Institute.

Each year unelected federal administrators write thousands of regulations possessing the force of law. What do these civil servants know about the American people whom they ostensibly serve? Not much, according to this enlightening and disturbing study.

The authors surveyed federal agency officials, congressional and White House staffers, and employees of various policy‐​making organizations about their attitudes toward and knowledge of the public. They found a great difference between what official Washington assumes they know about average Americans and the actual opinions and attitudes of American citizens. When it comes to policy issues—on such crucial issues as defense, crime, social security, welfare, public education, and the environment—officials’ perceptions of the public’s knowledge and positions are often wide of the mark. Compounding this ignorance is a pervasive attitude of smug dismissiveness toward the citizenry and little sense of accountability. As a result, bureaucrats tend to follow their own preferences without much reference to the opinions of the public. The authors recommend changes to improve governance.

Please join us for interesting look at the Washington elite in a time of populist anger.