The Rise of the Anti-Analytic Presidency
An American president must be master of two arts: politics and management. Without political mastery, he can't get elected, let alone construct the power base he'll need to govern. But without managerial expertise, his policy making will be unintelligent and ineffective.
Managerial mastery has been missing from the administrations of all post-World War II presidents, according to Walter Williams. Spurred by popular anti-bureaucratic sentiment and promises to trim the fat from the federal government, presidents from Eisenhower to Carter have decimated the ranks of top-level bureaucrats, leaving the Executive Office of the President alarmingly short of competent policy advice.
“What is unique to Williams’s analysis is that he brings together examples of mismanagement during the Reagan years and connects that administration’s failures to a larger pattern—the increasing tendency of recent presidents to be either ‘anti-government’ or ‘anti-bureaucracy’ and thus insufficiently attentive to the organizational and analytical dimensions of policy-making.”
—American Review of Public Administration
“This is an incisive original analysis of an important issue.”
—Fred I. Greenstein, author of Evolution of the Modern Presidency
“The issues examined here—the emergence of technically trained, professional policy advisers, the proper role of such advisers, and the consequences of presidential failure to seek and use such advisers effectively—are of major importance to American governance. Others have examined pieces of the puzzle, but until now no one has explored it in this depth, using the methodology of repeated confidential—and very candid—interviews with actual participants in the policy process.”
—Harry S. Havens, author of The Evolution of the General Accounting Office
“A forceful response to those scholars who question the capacity of presidents to be organizational managers or policy analysts.”
—Peri E. Arnold, author of Making the Managerial Presidency
“This book introduces policy analysis as a significant, but hitherto ignored, variable in the debate about presidential staffing. . . . Williams’s ‘guiding propositions’ for structuring and staffing the Executive Office of the President represent the most detailed and thoughtful blueprint for the role and function of the presidential staff since Brownlow.”
—John Hart, author of The Presidential Branch, writing in Policy Currents
“An invaluable contribution to the study of the presidency. . . . Williams’s critique of President Reagan—whom he labels an anti-analytic president—is devastating.”
—John W. Sloan, author of Eisenhower and the Management of ProsperitySee fewer reviews...
Reagan took the process a step further. He was, according to Williams, the first explicitly anti-analytic president. "Ronald Reagan launched an eight-year war on policy information and analysis," Williams writes. "He won. His distaste for expert policy information, analysis, and advice led to the destruction of much of the institutional analytic capacity built up in the Executive Branch."
Poor policies and inept governance are the direct result of cutbacks in expert policy information and analytic capacity, Williams contends. He traces the decline of policy analysis since Eisenhower, but focuses his most devastating analysis on Reagan, who cut experts from the agencies, relied on a few hand-picked, mainly political advisers, and held all policy analysis to an ideological standard.
The results of the fifty-year trend, according to Williams, are massive budget and trade deficits, public sector underinvestment in physical and human capital that threatens America's superpower status, and a widening gap between rich and poor that is tearing apart the nation's social fabric. Still, the situation is not hopeless. Williams prescribes a series of measures to correct America's course, arguing that government is not just the problem, it's the solution.