Most people talk about red tape as though it were some kind of loathsome disease or the deliberate product of a group of evil conspirators or the result of bureaucratic stupidity and inertia. It is rarely discussed rationally, dispassionately, and analytically; most of us rage about it when it comes up. In this book, Kaufman attempts a detached examination of the subject to find out why something so universally detested flourishes so widely and enjoys such powers of endurance. Part of the explanation is the protean character of the term ""red tape"; each of us applies it to our own pet grievances, not realizing that other people's grievances are often quite different from our own.Underlying this variance, however, is a common core of meaning, and the first part of the book identifies that shared understanding. The second part searches for the origins of the despised phenomenon in the federal government, and finds the source not in a clique of fools or villains, but in all of us. Red tape, according to this analysis, springs largely from the diversity of values to which people in our society subscribe, from the demands on government to which these values give rise, and from the responsiveness of the government to the demands.In this sense, red tape is of our own making. Consequently, getting rid of it entirely--rewinding the spools, as it were-is a hopeless quest. The major proposals for eliminating it are found wanting in this regard (though there may be other reasons to favour some of these reforms); they may even generate as much red tape as they cut. That being the case, Kaufman concludes that a more fruitful policy would be to concentrate on relieving the worst of redtape's irritants so as to make bearable what we cannot end, and he explores several steps he believes will have this effect.Although many readers will find this book depressing, most will probably acknowledge the persuasiveness of its argument. And some, like the author, will take heart from the analysis on the grounds that relief measures rooted in reality are much more likely to succeed than proposals for improvement based on delusive optimism and false hope.