When well-designed institutions function properly, people thrive. Few institutions have been more ingeniously designed than the U.S. federal government via the Constitution in 1787. This auspicious beginning more than two centuries ago helps explain why the U.S. remains a magnet for opportunity seekers, students, entrepreneurs, dissidents, and persecuted believers.
Yet for decades now, America’s federal government has been underperforming. Social Security and Medicare face looming insolvency. The federal government’s “war on poverty” has failed to “end poverty” and arguably made it worse. In 2012, the United States Postal Service lost more money than the nation spent on the State Department, and Amtrak has lost money every year since being created in 1971. How can an enduring institution, so thoughtfully crafted, now produce such poor results?
The federal government has grown so much because it serves a new and different vision, American Progressivism. American Progressives believed that democratically elected, public-minded federal politicians and employees could use federal programs to solve the nation’s greatest problems in a way no other American institution could. This idea justified the federal government’s massive expansion: today, the federal government runs over 1,500 programs and employs over 5% of the U.S. workforce.
Yet federal results do not match Progressive expectations. Three key problems – “windfall politics”, “the government surcharge”, and “complexity failure” – overlooked by American Progressives explain the federal government’s consistent failures. American Progressive’s rosy-eyed view of human nature and political institutions have not been borne out by the evidence.
In an era of substantial political fermentation and debate, rediscovering and re-applying American Republicanism represents the best path forward for the United States. The federal government should retain many necessary responsibilities but turn over those where it has failed – for social welfare, federally provided services, and retirement savings among others – to the country’s state governments, civil society, and individual citizens respectively.
John Nantz is the founding partner of strategy consulting firm Redwood Advisors. He lives in Austin, Texas.
Part I: Competing Visions
Chapter 1: A Realistic Founding Vision
Chapter 2: The Progressive Vision
Part II: Observing the Results
Chapter 3: The Big Government Experiment
Chapter 4: Windfall Politics
Chapter 5: The Government Surcharge
Chapter 6: Complexity Failure
Part III: Sovereignty and Solvency
Chapter 7: Rehabilitate the States
Chapter 8: Renewing Civil Society
Chapter 9: Restoring Individual Sovereignty
Afterword: A Path Forward
About the Author
John Nantz’s book is intelligent, well-informed, written with verve, and argued in a compelling manner. This book is a must-read.
John Nantz has written an incisive critique of the flaws in theory—and failures in practice—of statist, twentieth-century Progressivism. Impressively researched and boldly argued, his book advocates, as an alternative, a decentralized approach to governance and public policy, rooted in a vibrant civil society and the limited-government republicanism of America's Founders. In our rancorous and increasingly polarized political environment, Nantz's thoughtful volume could not be more timely.
John Nantz’s American Republicanism Re-Envisioned critically examines the role of government from the Founding Fathers to the present day. He presents both facts and theory why our Progressive experiment has gotten out of control. The solution is a return to a Federalism properly understood.
At a time when American civil society is in desperate need of being revitalized, John Nantz provides a thorough, compelling vision for how to do so.
America today is at risk of losing the birthright passed down to us by the likes of Washington, Jefferson and all of our Founders. We may not realize the danger that lies down that road until it’s too late. That’s why Rediscovering Republicanism is such a critical read for our times. John Nantz has brought the timeless wisdom of the Founding Fathers back to life for a generation that desperately needs it.