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Charles Dickens and America’s First Great Depression

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 5.40.27 PMThe Boston Globe discusses America’s First Great Depression as part of its story about Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Lee Lecture at Oxford: Four Crises of Democracy

Crisis_of_DemcracyI’ll be delivering the Lee Lecture at All Souls College, Oxford, on February 26, 2015.  The title of my lecture will be Four Crises of Democracy. 

The abstract: “Around the world, there is growing concern about the performance of democratic institutions. There have been similar ‘crises of democracy in the past.  But not all crises are alike.  Over the twentieth century, the United States suffered three distinct crises of democracy — one concerned primarily with democratic accountability, one with mastery of social and economic forces, and one with discipline of the state itself.   These three types of crisis are evident in other countries today.  But the current American crisis may be a new type.  It is a crisis of anticipation, concerned mainly with large problems whose effects have not yet been realized.  Like its predecessors, this fourth crisis may generate significant changes in American political institutions and culture.  Such crises illustrate that our institutions are much more pliable than recent scholarship has suggested.”

The Lecture is supported by Dr. Seng Tee Lee FBA through an endowment for an annual lecture in Political Science and Government.  The 2014 Lee Lecture was delivered by Professor Nancy Rosenblum of Harvard University.

Open secrets and dirty hands

In light of the just-released report on CIA torture, this 2012 book chapter, “Open Secrets and Dirty Hands,” might be of interest. “Complaints about secretiveness were commonplace throughout the presidency of George W. Bush. Such complaints overestimated the capacity of a contemporary President to maintain secrecy. Moreover, they overlooked the reality that information about the worst abuses of the Bush administration was generally accessible to the public. We professed ignorance about governmental kidnapping, indefinite detention, and prisoner abuse, even though details about such practices were readily available.” Read on SSRN.

Sarat-Douglas-Umphreys0314This chapter was published in The Secrets of  Law (Stanford University Press, 2012).  Kevin Wagner reviewed the book for Law and Politics Book Review in March 2014.  “Alasdair Roberts’ ‘Open Secrets and Dirty Hands’ is an excellent look back at the secrecy conflict during the Bush Administration. He effectively presents the idea of a willing ignorance as a complicit element of perceived government secrecy.” Read the review.

Meeting of Administrative Conference of United States

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 5.26.45 AMI’ll be attending the plenary session of the Administrative Conference of the United States in Washington on December 4-5, as one of ACUS’ public members.  Details about the 61st plenary session.

Lecture on “Large Forces” at George Mason University

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.33.41 AMI’ll be discussing my monograph, Large Forces: What’s Missing in Public Administration, at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs on December 2.  Details about the lecture here.

Book reviews: Does democracy work?

nroman-rockwell-free-speechSix reviews that I’ve written recently, on books that assess the state of democracy:

Review of Democracy in Retreat by Joshua Kurlantzick. Forthcoming in International Public Management Review.  “Kurlantzick provides a detailed account of how our end-of-the-millennium exuberance about the spread of democracy dissipated so quickly. Around the world, Kurlantzick says, an unhappy middle class has slipped away from the pro-democracy camp. What can be done to draw the middle class back? This is a critical question which Kurlantick only begins to answer — and perhaps cannot be answered neatly in a work of this breadth.”  Read the draft on SSRN. Read more

Brookings paper discusses openness lecture

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 10.07.34 AMA brief just published by the Brookings Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management discusses my lecture to the Accountability Network’s conference in Mexico City in October.  “Roberts rightly sounds an alarm about recent claims that transparency is a cause of declining democracies and government dysfunction,” write Gary Bass, Danielle Brian and Norman Eisen.  Read the brief.

Democracy: Doing better, feeling worse

A mash-up of two charts that relate to the reading I’ve been doing lately on the state of democracy.  The orange line shows the number of countries that are established democracies according to Polity IV data.  The blue line shows how frequently the phrase “crisis of democracy” appears in the English language corpus in Google’s Ngram.Crisis of democracy

NASPAA/APPAM panel on relationship between political science and public administration

Button.2014I’ll be participating in a NASPAA/APPAM panel on “the evolving relationship between political science and public administration” in Albuquerque, NM on November 6.  The panel will be chaired by Steven Rathgeb Smith, APSA Executive Director.  More details here.  I’ll draw on the argument from my monograph Large Forces: What’s Missing in Public Administration.   The core ideas from the monograph are summarized in this oped published in PA Times last spring.

Governance roundtable at Boston University

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 9.27.54 PMI’ll be participating in a lunch discussion at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies on November 20.  The discussion highlights a forthcoming special issue of Governance that examines how the global financial crisis has changed policy and practice within the International Monetary Fund.  The special issue was organized by Cornel Ban and Kevin Gallagher of the Pardee School.  More details here.


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