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A Government Ill Executed: The Depletion of the Federal Service


Paul C. Light is the Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service in the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University. He is the author of A Government Ill Executed: The Decline of the Federal Service and How to Reverse It, published by Harvard University Press in 2008.


The federal government’s “quiet crisis” of the 1980s has become the “deafening crisis” of the early twenty-first century. Virtually every measure of the state of the public service as envisioned by Alexander Hamilton has worsened over the past two decades. This lecture outlines Hamilton’s seven characteristics of an energetic federal service and examines recent trends in its decline. Although the federal service still executes an enormous agenda of important missions, it is increasingly frustrated in its work.