"The Rule of Nobody''

Robert Whitcomb: 4 policy changes to address infrastructure crisis

That America's physical infrastructure is  crumbling is doing ever more serious damage to U.S. economic and social health. Thus we send along word of a very important report from Common Good, the reform organization chaired by our friend Philip K. Howard. Please read this press release:

Delays in approving infrastructure projects cost the nation more than twice what it would cost to fix the infrastructure, according to a new report released today by Common Good, the nonpartisan government reform coalition. Those approvals can take a decade or longer, and the report shows that a six-year delay in starting construction on public projects costs the nation over $3.7 trillion, including the costs of prolonged inefficiencies and unnecessary pollution. That’s more than double the $1.7 trillion needed through the end of this decade to modernize America’s decrepit infrastructure.

Titled "Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals,'' the report proposes a dramatic reduction of red tape so that infrastructure can be approved in two years or less. This can be accomplished by consolidating decisions within a simplified framework with deadlines and clear lines of accountability.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), for example, should have authority to draw lines on the scope of environmental review. To cut the Gordian knot of multiple permits, the White House needs authority to resolve disputes among bickering agencies. The report comes as the federal government considers funding for infrastructure projects, but funding alone is not sufficient.

Even fully funded projects have trouble moving forward. In 2009, America had the money (over $800 billion in the economic stimulus package) but few permits. In its five-year report on the stimulus, released in February 2014, the White House revealed that a grand total of $30 billion (3.6 percent of the stimulus) had been spent on transportation infrastructure.

In the current legal quagmire, not even the president has authority to approve needed projects. The report also comes as Americans are increasingly frustrated with the federal government’s inability to improve the nation’s infrastructure.

A nationwide poll of U.S. voters conducted for Common Good in June by Clarus Research Group found that 74 percent of voters would be more inclined to vote for a candidate for President who promised to take charge of federal infrastructure reviews to speed up the process; 79 percent of voters think there are no good reasons for infrastructure delays, which are mostly viewed as an example of wasteful and inefficient government.

In analyzing the costs of delay, the report includes the direct costs (legal, administrative, and overhead), the opportunity costs of lost efficiencies during the years of delay, and the environmental costs of antiquated infrastructure during the delay. These costs are estimated for electricity transmission, power generation, inland waterways, roads and bridges, rail, and water.

To rebuild America’s infrastructure on an efficient and timely basis, the report proposes four major policy changes:

• Public comment should be solicited before formal plans are finalized, as well as throughout the process. Input should be informal, not a matter of formal hearings and “building the record.” This change would help broaden public discussion and make government decisions more accountable.

• The scope and adequacy of environmental review should be determined by a designated environmental official. Review should focus on material issues of impact and possible alternatives, not endless details. Net overall impact should be the most important finding. Environmental review should generally be completed in no more than a year, and should not be longer than 300 pages, as set forth in current regulations. The report proposes that CEQ assume this responsibility.

• It is also important to eliminate the fear of litigation that leads project proponents to practice a kind of “defensive medicine” that transforms environmental-impact statements into multi-thousand page documents. Needed changes would: i) require all claims challenging a project to be brought within 90 days of issuance of federal permits; ii) require credible allegations that the review is so inadequate as to be arbitrary or, for permits, that the project violates substantive law; and iii) require that impact be measured against the overall benefit of a project.

• Multiple permitting should be replaced by a “one-stop shop.” If America wants new infrastructure on a timely basis, approvals must be consolidated. The new framework should preempt state law for interstate projects (similar to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority over new gas pipelines), and give the White House authority to designate a single agency to balance regulatory concerns and issue permits for an interstate project.

“The upside of rebuilding infrastructure is as rosy as the downside of delay is dire,” said Philip K. Howard, chairman of Common Good. “America can enhance its competitiveness, achieve a greener footprint, and create upwards of two million jobs. Americans clearly want infrastructure improvement – not further waste and inefficiency. The question is: Will the federal government make it happen?”

The full report is available at www.commongood.org. For more information or to talk with Common Good Chairman Philip K. Howard, please contact Chelsey Saatkamp at 212-576-2700 x259 or csaatkamp@goodmanmedia.com.

Common Good (www.commongood.org) is a nonpartisan government reform coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. The  chairman of Common Good is Philip K. Howard, a lawyer and author of most recently The Rule of Nobody. He is also author of The Death of Common Sense.

Philip K. Howard: To help fix infrastructure, cut red tape

The deadly Amtrak derailment on Tuesday is just another symptom of Congress’s refusal to address the United States’ decrepit infrastructure. Amtrak is notoriously underfunded, with a huge capital expenditure backlog. While the cause of the crash is not yet determined, even engineer error may have been avoided if Amtrak had implemented “positive train control” to restrict dangerous speeds. But almost every category of U.S. infrastructure is in a dangerous or obsolete state — roads and bridges, power generation and transmission, water treatment and delivery, ports and air traffic control. There is no partisan divide on what is needed: a national initiative to modernize our 50- to 100-year-old infrastructure. The upside is as rosy as the status quo is dire. The United States can enhance its competitiveness, achieve a greener footprint and create upward of 2 million jobs .

So what’s the problem? Modernizing infrastructure requires money and permits. Congress needs to create a long-term funding plan and radically reduce the red tape that drives up costs and ensnarls projects in their infancy. Instead, Congress uses short-term fixes to get past the looming insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. Congressional efforts to cut red tape are similarly weak .

Congress pretends that not spending money is prudent. But continued delay is not only dangerous but also costly. The longer we wait, the more our infrastructure will cost. Because of decades of deferred maintenance, the bill for repairing the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City, for example, was inflated tenfold in recent years, to $800 million.

Merely avoiding inefficiencies more than pays for new infrastructure — returning $1.44 on each dollar invested, according to Moody’s. Delays due to infrastructure bottlenecks cost about $200 billion per year on railroads, $50 billion per year on roads and $33 billion on inland waterways . America’s antiquated power grid wastes 7 percent of the electricity it transmits, or about $30 billion worth of electricity annually.

Funding won’t build much, however, without red-tape reform. Congress funded an $800 billion stimulus plan in 2009, but five years later only $30 billion had been spent on transportation infrastructure because no government agency had authority to approve projects. As President Obama put it, “There’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”

Red tape can consume nearly a decade on major projects. For example, raising the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge near the Port of Newark, a project with virtually no environmental impact (it uses existing foundations and right of way), required 47 permits from 19 agencies, and a 5,000-page environmental assessment. The approval process took five years. In San Diego, permitting for a desalination plant began in 2003 and was completed, after 14 legal challenges, in 2012. It will start producing fresh water this year — 12 years later.

Congress did not deliberately create this bureaucratic jungle. The jungle just grew, like kudzu. Environmental review statements are supposed to be 150 to 300 pages, according to federal regulations, and focus on important trade-offs. Nor was the proliferation of permits by design. As government got bigger, it naturally organized itself into silos, each with its own rules and territorial instincts. Many requirements are senseless in context — like requiring a survey of historic buildings within a two-mile radius of the Bayonne Bridge, even though the project touched no buildings.

Just as conservatives act as if funding infrastructure is imprudent, liberals in Congress defend multiple layers of review. Red tape is not the same as good government. It harms the environment as well as driving up costs. The wasted electricity from the obsolete power grid is the same as the output of 200 average coal-burning power plants — causing an extra 280 million tons of carbon to spew into the air each year. Delays in permitting new wind farms and solar fields and connecting transmission lines similarly result in extra carbon emissions. Traffic bottlenecks create exhaust fumes.

Infrastructure is unavoidably controversial. There is always an impact and always a group that is affected more than others. A wind farm or transmission line spoils views and can affect bird populations. A desalination plant produces a briny byproduct. Modernizing a port will disturb the ocean floor and increase traffic in nearby neighborhoods.

But delay on new infrastructure is far worse than these unavoidable side effects. An inefficient port reduces competitiveness and drives shipping elsewhere, requiring goods to be trucked longer distances. Delay in a desalination plant further depletes aquifers. All public choices involve tradeoffs. No amount of law can avoid that reality.

What is needed for infrastructure approvals is basic: Congress must create clear lines of authority to make decisions. Environmental review and public input are important, but such countries  as Germany and Canada achieve this in two years, not 10. They do this by giving responsibility to particular agencies to make practical choices that balance competing public interests — within strict time frames. For example, an environmental official should have responsibility to draw lines on how much review is sufficient. Similarly, one agency should have overriding permitting authority, balancing the concerns of other agencies and departments.

The opportunity here is transformational. With a two-year process and adequate funding, the United States can modernize its infrastructure at far less cost and with huge environmental and economic benefits. This requires Congress to make deliberate choices in the public good.

Philip K. Howard, a New York-based civic leader, author and lawyer, is chairman of the social- and legal-reform nonprofit organization Common Good. He's the author of the best-sellers The Rule of Nobody and The Death of Common Sense.

Robert Whitcomb: Another trap in the energy cycles

A few years ago I co-wrote a book, with Wendy Williams, about a controversy centered on Nantucket Sound. The quasi-social comedy, called Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics and the Battle for Our Energy Future, told of how, since 2001, a company led by entrepreneur James Gordon has struggled to put up a wind farm in the sound in the face of opposition from the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound — a long name for fossil-fuel billionaire Bill Koch, a member of the famous right-wing Republican family.  An amusing movie, Cape Spin,  directed by John Kirby and produced by Libby Handros, came out of this saga, too. Mr. Koch's houses include a summer mansion in Osterville, Mass., from which he doesn’t want to see wind turbines on his southern horizon on clear days.

Mr. Koch may now have won the battle, as very rich people usually do. Two big utilities, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, are trying to bail out of a politicized plan, which they never liked, forcing them to buy Cape Wind electricity. They cite the fact that the company missed the Dec. 31, 2014, deadline in contracts signed in 2012 to obtain financing and start construction. Cape Wind said it doesn’t “regard these terminations as valid” since, it asserts, the contracts let the utilities’ contracts be extended because of the alliance’s “unprecedented and relentless litigation.” Bill Koch has virtually unlimited funds to pay lawyers to litigate unto the Second Coming, aided by imaginative rhetoric supplied by his  very smart and well paid pit-bull  anti-Cape Wind spokeswoman, Audra Parker,  even though the project has won all regulatory approvals.

It's no secret that it has gotten harder and harder to do big projects in the United States because of endless litigation and ever more layers of regulation. Thus our physical infrastructure --- electrical grid, transportation and so on -- continues to fall behind our friendly competitors, say in the European Union and Japan, and our not-so-friendly competitors, especially in China. Read my friend Philip K. Howard's latest book, The Rule of Nobody, on this.

With the death of Cape Wind, New Englanders would lose what could have helped diversify the region’s energy mix — and smooth out price and supply swings — with home-grown, renewable electricity. Cape Wind is far from a panacea for the region’s dependence on natural gas, oil and nuclear, but it would add a tad more security.

Some of Cape Wind’s foes will say that the natural gas from fracking will take care of everything. But New England lacks adequate natural-gas pipeline capacity, to no small extent because affluent people along the routes hold up their construction. And NIMBYs (not in my backyard) have also blocked efforts to bring in more Canadian hydro-electric power. So our electricity rates are soaring, even as many of those who complain about the rates also fight any attempt to put new energy infrastructure near them. As for nuclear, it seems too politically incorrect for it to be expanded again in New England.

Meanwhile, the drawbacks to fracking, including water pollution and earthquakes in fracked countryside, are becoming more obvious. And the gas reserves may well be exaggerated. I support fracking anyway, since it means less use of oil and coal and because much of the gas is nearby, in Pennsylvania. (New York, however, recently banned fracking.)

Get ready for brownouts and higher electricity bills. As for oil prices, they are low now, but I have seen many, many energy price cycles over the last 45 years of watching the sector. And they often come with little warning. But meanwhile, many Americans, with ever-worsening amnesia, flock to buy SUV's again.

Robert Whitcomb oversees New England Diary.

More reforms for Gina Raimondo

I used to see Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (and her communications chief, Joy Fox)  a bit when Ms. Raimondo was the state treasurer, after her highly successful run as a venture capitalist. She got elected governor as a person willing to take on the challenges of structural reform  after having displayed this courageous willingness when she  embraced, as treasurer, the brutally difficult chore of pensi0n reform.  Runaway public pensions have threatened to effectively bankrupt Rhode Island and some of its cities and towns. (Some of the cities are still on the edge.) Now many of us hope very much that she'll join with Common Good and other reform organizations to push to eliminate obsolete laws and to review the  inefficient and costly "system'' of federal mandates on the states. The National Governors Association has a project along those lines.

Changes in these areas would make state governments more effective and cost-efficient and citizens' lives easier and more productive.

To get a sense of what I'm talking about, read Philip K. Howard's The Rule of Nobody. He runs Common Good and is an admirer of Governor Raimondo's work as treasurer.



'The Rule of Nobody' in American life

Citizens who have had it with America's  relentless litigation and paralyzing fear of it, and its turgid and contradictory regulations,  should read Philip K. Howard's The Rule of Nobody: Saving America From Dead Laws and Broken Government, which I (Whitcomb) review in the  latest Weekly Standard.  


Blame Russia for Russian aggression

By ROBERT WHITCOMB (rwhitcomb51@gmail.com)

Some denounce the United States for Russia’s reversion to brutal expansionism into its “Near Abroad” because we encouraged certain Central and Eastern European countries to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The argument is that NATO’s expansion led “Holy Russia” to fear that it was being “encircled.” (A brief look at a map of Eurasia would suggest the imprecision of that word.)

In other words, it’s all our fault. If we had just kept the aforementioned victims of past Russian and Soviet expansionism out of the Western Alliance, Russia wouldn’t have, for example, attacked Georgia and Ukraine. If only everyone had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and decided to trust him.

Really? Russia has had authoritarian or totalitarian expansionist regimes for hundreds of years, with only a few years’ break. How could we have necessarily done anything to end this tradition for all time after the collapse of the Soviet iteration of Russian imperialism? And should we blame Russia’s closest European neighbors for trying to protect themselves from being menaced again by their gigantic and traditionally aggressive neighbor to the east? Russia, an oriental despotism, is the author of current Russian imperialism.

Some of the Blame America rhetoric in the U.S. in the Ukraine crisis can be attributed to U.S. narcissism: the idea that everything that happens in the world is because of us. But Earth is a big, messy place with nations and cultures whose actions stem from deep history and habits that have little or nothing to do with big, self-absorbed, inward-looking America and its 5 percent of the world population. Americans' ignorance about the rest of the planet -- even about Canada! -- is staggering, especially for a "developed nation''.

And we tend to think that “personal diplomacy” and American enthusiasm and friendliness can persuade foreign leaders to be nice. Thus Franklin Roosevelt thought that he could handle “Joe Stalin” and George W. Bush could be pals with another dictator (albeit much milder) Vladimir Putin. They would, our leaders thought, be brought around by our goodwill (real or feigned).

But as a friend used to say when friends told him to “have a nice day”: “I have other plans.”

With the fall of the Soviet Empire, there was wishful thinking that the Russian Empire (of which the Soviet Empire was a version with more globalist aims) would not reappear. But Russian xenophobia, autocracy, anger and aggressiveness never went away.

Other than occupying Russia, as we did Japan and Western Germany after World War II, there wasn’t much we could do to make Russia overcome its worst impulses. (And Germany, and even Japan, had far more experience with parliamentary democracy than Russia had.) The empire ruled from the Kremlin is too big, too old, too culturally reactionary and too insular to be changed quickly into a peaceable and permanent democracy. (Yes, America is insular, too, but in different ways.)

There’s also that old American “can-do” impatience — the idea that every problem is amenable to a quick solution. For some reason, I well remember that two days after Hurricane Andrew blew through Dade County, Fla., in 1992, complaints rose to a chorus that President George H.W. Bush had not yet cleaned up most of the mess. How American!

And of course, we’re all in the centers of our own universes. Consider public speaking, which terrifies many people. We can bring to it extreme self-consciousness. But as a TV colleague once reminded me, most of the people in the audience are not fixated on you the speaker but on their own thoughts, such as on what to have for dinner that night. “And the only thing they might remember about you is the color of the tie you’re wearing.”

We Americans could use a little more fatalism about other countries.


James V. Wyman, a retired executive editor of The Providence Journal, was, except for his relentless devotion to getting good stories into the newspaper, the opposite of the hard-bitten newspaper editor portrayed in movies, usually barking out orders to terrified young reporters. Rather he was a kindly, thoughtful and soft-spoken (except for a booming laugh) gentleman with a capacious work ethic and powerful memory.

He died Friday at 90, another loss for the "legacy news media.''


My friend and former colleague George Borts died last weekend. He was a model professor — intellectually rigorous, kindly and accessible. As an economist at Brown University for 63 years (!) and as managing editor of the American Economic Review, he brought memorable scholarship and an often entertaining skepticism to his work. And he was a droll expert on the law of unintended consequences.

George wasn’t a cosseted citizen of an ivory tower. He did a lot of consulting for businesses, especially using his huge knowledge of, among other things, transportation and regulatory economics, and wrote widely for a general audience through frequent op-ed pieces. He was the sort of (unpretentious) “public intellectual” that we could use a lot more of.


I just read Philip K. Howard’s “The Rule of Nobody: Saving America From Dead Laws and Broken Government.” I urge all citizens to read this mortifying, entertaining and prescriptive book about how our extreme legalism and bureaucracy imperil our future. I’ll write more about the book in this space.

Robert Whitcomb (rwhitcomb51@gmail.com), a former editor of The Providence Journal's editorial pages, is a Providence-based writer and editor, former finance editor of the International Herald Tribune and a partner and senior adviser at Cambridge Management Group (cmg625.com), a consultancy for health systems, and a fellow of the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy.

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Philip K. Howard: Shipwrecked on ancient laws


A shipload of salt to deal with this year’s snow and ice on New Jersey’s roads has been detained in legal limbo in Providence Harbor, en route from Maine. The problem, detailed in the Feb. 19 New York Times, is that it’s illegal for a foreign-owned vessel to ship goods from one U.S. port to another. (There’s even a word for it, I learned. Domestic shipping is called "cabotage.")

Now, there’s nothing apparently wrong with the ship, which had just finished unloading its cargo in Maine and was available to take on the salt immediately. But an obscure 1920 law known as the Jones Act requires a U.S. ship, with a U.S. crew, on all domestic routes. There’s a cottage merchant marine industry and union that exists just because of this law.

In this era of free markets, one would think that protectionist laws from almost 100 years ago would have gone the way of the horse and buggy. But laws have remarkable staying power (as we saw two weeks ago with the continuation of New Deal-era farm subsidies). The same onerous process for enacting a law applies to repealing it, with one additional, almost insurmountable, hurdle: the law now is surrounded by an army of special interests who will do anything to defend it (think campaign money and ad hominem attacks on would-be reformers).

That’s why, in the strange culture of Washington, repealing laws is so rare as to be almost unthinkable. Getting rid of old laws violates the laws of legislative physics.

Laws pile up, year after year, like sediment in the harbor. Society, meanwhile, is increasingly paralyzed. The U.S. now ranks 20th in the world in ease of starting a business. This is because of thousands of laws like the Jones Act.

American democracy has a structural problem: There’s no political or legal imperative to clean the stables. The accumulation is so bad that, as I argue elsewhere, America should initiate a series of commissions, area by area, to recommend what are known as "recodifications" of law—new, simpler codes that reflect current national goals and priorities. Going forward, most regulatory programs should periodically "sunset," with an action-forcing mechanism (perhaps a constitutional amendment) that prevents Congress from simply re-enacting the same program in a midnight vote.

It’s impossible to run a government, much less balance public budgets, under the weight of a hundreds of laws and programs that are obsolete in whole or part. The weight grows heavier every year. It will break, sooner or later. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about to fix it.

Philip K. Howard is a New York-based lawyer, civic leader and author. He is chairman of the legal and social-reform group Common Good and the author of , among other books, The Death of Common Sense and the upcoming The Rule of Nobody.

Philip K. Howard: Infrastructure repairs drown in regulatory molasses

  To our readers: This column also ran in a pre-renovation version of  New England Diary a few weeks ago. As we seek to import the pre-renovation archives, we will rerun particularly important files, such as  Philip Howard's piece here.

-- Robert Whitcomb




President Obama went on the stump this summer to promote his "Fix It First" initiative, calling for public appropriations to shore up America's fraying infrastructure. But funding is not the challenge. The main reason crumbling roads, decrepit bridges, antiquated power lines, leaky water mains and muddy harbors don't get fixed is interminable regulatory review.

Infrastructure approvals can take upward of a decade or longer, according to the Regional Plan Association. The environmental review statement for dredging the Savannah River took 14 years to complete. Even projects with little or no environmental impact can take years.

Raising the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge at the mouth of the Port of Newark, for example, requires no new foundations or right of way, and would not require approvals at all except that it spans navigable water. Raising the roadway would allow a new generation of efficient large ships into the port. But the project is now approaching its fifth year of legal process, bogged down in environmental litigation.

Mr. Obama also pitched infrastructure improvements in 2009 while he was promoting his $830 billion stimulus. The bill passed but nothing much happened because, as the administration learned, there is almost no such thing as a "shovel-ready project." So the stimulus money was largely diverted to shoring up state budgets.

Building new infrastructure would enhance U.S. global competitiveness, improve our environmental footprint and, according to McKinsey studies, generate almost two million jobs. But it is impossible to modernize America's physical infrastructure until we modernize our legal infrastructure. Regulatory review is supposed to serve a free society, not paralyze it.

Other developed countries have found a way. Canada requires full environmental review, with state and local input, but it has recently put a maximum of two years on major projects. Germany allocates decision-making authority to a particular state or federal agency: Getting approval for a large electrical platform in the North Sea, built this year, took 20 months; approval for the City Tunnel in Leipzig, scheduled to open next year, took 18 months. Neither country waits for years for a final decision to emerge out of endless red tape.

In America, by contrast, official responsibility is a kind of free-for-all among multiple federal, state and local agencies, with courts called upon to sort it out after everyone else has dropped of exhaustion. The effect is not just delay, but decisions skewed toward the squeaky wheels instead of the common good. This is not how democracy is supposed to work.

America is missing the key element of regulatory finality: No one is in charge of deciding when there has been enough review. Avoiding endless process requires changing the regulatory structure in two ways:

Environmental review today is done by a "lead agency"—such as the Coast Guard in the case of the Bayonne Bridge—that is usually a proponent of a project, and therefore not to be trusted to draw the line. Because it is under legal scrutiny and pressure to prove it took a "hard look," the lead agency's approach has mutated into a process of no pebble left unturned, followed by lawsuits that flyspeck documents that are often thousands of pages long.

What's needed is an independent agency to decide how much environmental review is sufficient. An alteration project like the Bayonne Bridge should probably have an environmental review of a few dozen pages and not, as in that case, more than 5,000 pages. If there were an independent agency with the power to say when enough is enough, then there would be a deliberate decision, not a multiyear ooze of irrelevant facts. Its decision on the scope of review can still be legally challenged as not complying with the basic principles of environmental law. But the challenge should come after, say, one year of review, not 10.

It is also important to change the Balkanized approvals process for other regulations and licenses. These approvals are now spread among federal, state and local agencies like a parody of bureaucracy, with little coordination and frequent duplication of environmental and other requirements. The Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, now in its 12th year of scrutiny, required review by 17 different agencies. The Gateway West power line, to carry electricity from Wyoming wind farms to the Pacific Northwest, requires the approval of each county in Idaho that the line will traverse. The approval process, begun in 2007, is expected to be complete by 2015. This is paralysis by federalism.

The solution is to create what other countries call "one-stop approvals."  Giving one agency the authority to cut through the knot of multiple agencies (including those at state and local levels) will dramatically accelerate approvals.

This is how "greener" countries in Europe make decisions. In Germany, local projects are decided by a local agency (even if there's a national element), and national projects by a national agency (even though there are local concerns). One-stop approval is already in place in the U.S. New interstate gas pipelines are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Special interests—especially groups that like the power of being able to stop anything—will foster fears of officials abusing the public trust. Giving people responsibility does not require trust, however. I don't trust anyone. But I can live with a system of democratic responsibility and judicial oversight. What our country can't live with is spinning our wheels in perpetual review. America needs to get moving again.

Philip K. Howard, a lawyer, is chairman of the nonpartisan reform group Common Good. His new book, "The Rule of Nobody," will be published in April by W.W. Norton. He is also the author of, among other works, "The Death of Common Sense''.