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The (Il)logics of Federal Budgeting, and Why Crisis Must Come


Matt Andrews is an associate professor of public policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. A South African by origin, his work is in the area of public fi nancial management and development.


The U.S. federal budgeting system faces severe challenges in coming years. Deficits are being recorded at levels and with regularity not seen in prior periods. This article suggests that such problems reflect the uncomfortable mix of logics informing budgetary and political institutions—that is, the rules of the game. Logics make it appropriate to expect that government be limited in its tax demands but simultaneously responsive in providing expensive services necessary for the achievement of the American dream, for example. Crisis is needed to allow the emergence of institutional forms that mediate between these conflicting logics.