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Politics & Current Affairs

How to Engineer Better Bureaucracy

Just as engineering innovations have a 30-year shelf life, institutional safeguards, whether financial or nuclear power regulation, need to evolve and change hands every two or three decades.

What’s the Latest Development?

The Atlantic’s erudite Edward Tenner examines two recent New York Times articles to highlight the similarities in what caused the Fukushima nuclear accident and Berny Madoff’s financial fraud. In both cases, says Tenner, government regulation had grown too old to adjust to attempts to undermine it. In the case of Fukushima, collusion between private industry and government kept valid concerns about building a nuclear power plant along fault lines away from the public’s eye. Similarly with Madoff, the government had eviscerated the well-intentioned Securities and Exchange Commission.

What’s the Big Idea?

How can we think smarter about government at a time when our political institutions have become so complex that efficacy suffers as a result. Perhaps we should stop thinking of government in terms of government, but utilize different metaphors to give novel perspective to our politics. The idea proposed by Tenner to is think of government as a civil engineering project that needs rethinking every few decades. Tenner says the initiative of some to subvert well-meaning regulation will always exist, so policy makers must stay one step ahead of the game. 


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