It has become all too easy to disparage the role of the US government today. Many Americans are influenced by a simplistic anti-government ideology that is itself driven by a desire to roll back the more democratically responsive aspects of public policy. But government has improved the lives of Americans in numerous ways, from providing income, food, education, housing, and healthcare support, to ensuring cleaner air, water, and food, to providing a vast infrastructure upon which economic growth depends.
In What American Government Does, Stan Luger and Brian Waddell offer a practical understanding of the scope and function of American governance. They present a historical overview of the development of US governance that is rooted in the theoretical work of Charles Tilly, Karl Polanyi, and Michael Mann. Touching on everything from taxes, welfare, and national and domestic security to the government's regulatory, developmental, and global responsibilities, each chapter covers a main function of American government and explains how it emerged and then evolved over time. Luger and Waddell are careful to both identify the controversies related to what government does and those areas of government that should elicit concern and vigilance. Analyzing the functions of the US government in terms of both a tug-of-war and a collaboration between state and societal forces, they provide a reading of American political development that dispels the myth of a weak, minimal, non-interventionist state.
What American Government Does represents a major contribution to the scholarly debate on the nature of the American state and the exercise of power in America.
Stan Luger is a professor and the chair of the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Corporate Power, American Democracy, and the Automobile Industry. Brian Waddell is an associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The War against the New Deal: World War II and American Democracy and Towards the National Security State: Civil-Military Relations During World War II.