The Blog

News and stories from the campaign to reclaim individual responsibility and liberate Americans from bureaucracy and legal fear.


Philip Howard Appears on Idaho Public Television

Common Good Chair Philip Howard recently appeared on “Dialogue,” Idaho Public Television’s statewide public affairs program. The 30-minute discussion with host Marcia Franklin covers such topics as principles-based regulation, the role of judges, the need to review old laws, and how to bring about change.

“In a sensible system of government,” Howard tells Franklin, “everybody ought to be free to ask, ‘What’s the right thing to do here?’ Instead we’ve got this crazy world where teachers are told never to put an arm around a crying child, and playgrounds are not allowed to have things that are fun for kids, and businesses don’t give job references, and all these things where people are paralyzed in all kinds of ways that make no sense, because of the detailed rules."

Click here to watch the full interview.

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The Oklahoman Supports Common Good Chair’s Call for ‘Grand Bargain’ on Infrastructure

The Oklahoman editorial board writes today in support of Common Good Chair Philip Howard’s recent infrastructure proposal in The Atlantic. An excerpt from the editorial:

An attorney by trade, Philip K. Howard has made a career of trying to overhaul government in order to make it more responsive and useful. An indication that he doesn't play favorites: Howard frequently calls to reduce the number of laws on the books. Indeed the title of one of his many books is 'Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans from Too Much Law.'

It isn't the law so much as federal red tape that's the object of Howard's ire presently, and that of the reform organization he heads, Common Good ( He's calling for reducing the mountain of bureaucracy that gets in the way of upgrading the country's infrastructure — roads, bridges and power grids — with a proposal that would require cooperation from both sides of the political aisle.

Howard's idea: Conservatives agree to raise taxes to help pay for modernized infrastructure, in return for liberals agreeing to lighten up on the regulatory end. Such a deal would “cut critical infrastructure costs in half, enhance America's environmental footprint, and boost the economy,” Howard wrote in The Atlantic.

Read the full editorial here. Read Philip’s Atlantic essay here.

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Philip Howard Contributes to Public Administration Review

In the January/February 2016 issue of Public Administration Review, Common Good Chair Philip Howard shows how modern government has failed—and argues that the only solution is to restore human responsibility as government’s operating mechanism. An excerpt from “Put Humans in Charge”:

Fairness, balance, trade-offs, and practical solutions always require judgment in context. Management theorist Chester Barnard suggested that ‘at least nine-tenths of all organization activity’ must be figured out by people who actually execute the task. ‘The guy standing there looking at the hole in the ground,’ former Georgia Commissioner Joe Tanner observed, ‘is best able to tell if there's a problem and how to fill it up.’

Real people, not rules, make things happen. This is as true in public administration as it is in every other human endeavor. Rules are vital to set a framework for human responsibility, and to provide mechanisms of accountability. But rules should provide a framework, not a substitute, for official responsibility.

Building a system of public administration grounded in official responsibility is not that hard. Indeed, it would be much simpler than today's complex system of regulatory micromanagement.

Click here to read the full essay.

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Common Good Chair Proposes Grand Bargain in Essay for the Atlantic

Writing for the Atlantic, Philip Howard proposes a deal between Democrats and Republicans that would improve America’s infrastructure in a streamlined fashion. In short, the bargain calls for more funding for less process. Howard explains:

There’s a way to break the logjam caused by a lack of needed funding and an overabundance of process. Conservatives concerned about wasteful government should agree to raise taxes to fund infrastructure if liberals agree to abandon the bureaucratic tangle that causes the waste. This deal will cut critical infrastructure costs in half, enhance America’s environmental footprint, and boost the economy.

Adequate funding will get America moving with safe and efficient infrastructure. And abandoning years of process need not undermine environmental goals or public transparency. The key, as in Germany and Canada, is to allocate authority to make needed decisions within a set time frame. Public input is vital, but it can be accomplished in months. Plus, input is more effective at the beginning of the process, as adjustments can be made before any plan is set in the legal concrete of multi-thousand-page environmental-review statements.

Click here to read “How to Fix America's Infrastructure” in full. And click here to access Common Good’s recent report on how to streamline infrastructure permitting, “Two Years, Not Ten Years.”

UPDATE: Click here to watch Philip’s January 3rd appearance on MSNBC to discuss his proposal.

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Philip Howard Writes Essay for Ripon Forum Issue on Obsolete Law

The new issue of the Ripon Forum, a journal for Republican leadership in Congress and beyond, focuses on a core Common Good theme—the need to fix old laws—and includes a lead essay by Common Good Chair Philip Howard. Removing or fixing obsolete programs (not just stopping new regulation) is vital to an effective government as well as a vigorous economy.

Click here to read Howard's full essay. (And click here to access the legislative language on infrastructure streamlining mentioned in the essay.)

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Presidential Candidates Cite “Two Years, Not Ten Years” Report

Hillary Clinton’s $500 billion infrastructure proposal announced on Sunday, November 29, includes a commitment to “cut red tape and enhance accountability,” citing Common Good’s report “Two Years, Not Ten Years.”

William Galston’s column today in the Wall Street Journal, discussing the Clinton plan, specifically endorses Common Good’s “landmark report,” noting that “[o]ther democracies can plan, fund and execute projects in less time than it takes in the U.S. to complete the required environmental-impact statements.”

In September Jeb Bush in his regulatory proposal also specifically called for infrastructure approvals to be completed “within two years instead of 10,” citing the Common Good report.

We hope other candidates will also address the high cost and environmental harm caused by infrastructure red tape. Radically simplifying the process is essential to modernizing America’s infrastructure. 

We ask all Common Good supporters who meet with presidential and congressional candidates to ask them about reforming red tape infrastructure. This is an important, nonpartisan issue that needs public discussion and candidate focus. 


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Philip Howard Leads Panel at Center on Capitalism and Society’s Annual Conference

On November 9, Common Good’s Philip Howard chaired a panel at Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society’s 13th Annual Conference. The panel, titled “How Evolving Social Values Suppress Individual Initiative,” also featured NYU’s Jonathan Haidt, Swarthmore College’s Barry Schwartz, and Lapham’s Quarterly Lewis Lapham. Click the picture below to watch the panel in full.

At the end of September, Philip was named an Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at the Center – you can read about that here. Click here to watch more video from the annual conference, including a luncheon presentation by entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

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Philip Howard Presents at Municipal Art Society’s 2015 Summit

On October 22, Common Good Chair Philip Howard presented at the Municipal Art Society of New York’s 2015 summit. Click the image below to watch his six-minute talk, titled “Two Years, Not Ten Years.”

Click here to access Common Good’s recent “Two Years, Not Ten Years” report on infrastructure permitting.

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Recent Essay Makes the Case for Health Courts

In a recent essay for the Stamford Advocate, Dr. Edward Volpintesta of Connecticut makes the case for health courts:

[H]ealth courts presided over by judges with special training in malpractice have great potential to lessen the adversarial instincts that characterize the medical liability system.

Health courts can 1) eliminate the adversarial attitude that has poisoned the current system, 2) settle cases fairly in weeks or months not the three or four years that they take now, 3) cut down on the legal wrangling that often goes on as cases wind their way through the system, 4) limit the incentives that lawyers have to make the suits as expensive as possible in order to increase their fees, 5) control unfair multimillion dollar verdicts, 6) reduce the court costs, and 7) reduce the hostilities between injured parties and physicians. …

Health courts are an idea whose time has come. The benefits for the public good are immense. It would be senseless and unreasonable if all parties concerned did not give it their wholehearted support.

He relates that the Connecticut State Medical Society recently decided to advocate for legislation that would establish health courts.

The health court concept was developed by Common Good in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health and with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It is the only reform proposal that can bring reliability to medical justice, the absence of which causes doctors to engage in the costly practice of defensive medicine. Health courts have been endorsed by medical societies, patient safety advocates, editorial boards, leading government officials—including President Obama—and the American public.

Read Dr. Volpintesta’s full essay here. Read Common Good Chair Philip K. Howard’s 2009 essay for the New York Times, “Just Medicine,” here.

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Common Good Releases New Report: “Two Years, Not Ten Years”

*** Click here to access proposed legislative language to implement the report's proposals. ***

Today Common Good released Two Years, Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals, our new report on the costs of delaying infrastructure permits. The report concludes that a permitting delay of six years on public projects costs the nation over $3.7 trillion, more than double the $1.7 trillion needed through the end of this decade to modernize America’s decrepit infrastructure.

Read the press release here.

Read the report here.

This report came out of the May 2015 forum Common Good co-hosted with the National Association of Manufacturers, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Covington & Burling LLP.

Common Good is pushing for a radically simplified approach, with all reviews and approvals completed within two years. “Two Years, Not Ten Years” is our rallying cry.

We would welcome your comments and suggestions on this crucial national issue. You can e-mail them to

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