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

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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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Common Good Event: “Paralyzed Government: Then What?”

The U.S. government is structurally paralyzed and requires a reset to become functional. The paralysis is not simply political but structural. Red tape blocks vital initiatives and obstructs rather than supports public goals. The nation’s infrastructure is crumbling, taking as long as a decade to get needed approvals to undertake essential projects. Innovation is stifled; the U.S. now ranks 46th globally in ease of starting a business. America’s economic competitiveness is undercut, along with millions of potential jobs.  

The roots of public paralysis grow deep in our culture—avoiding authority, giving any group an effective veto, and letting special interests preserve the status quo. This discussion—“Paralyzed Government: Then What?”—will bring together leading thinkers who have each recently published books suggesting the need not just for new leadership, but major overhauls of governing structures.  

Participants in the discussion, which will take place on Wednesday, June 17, and be moderated by John Avlon, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Beast, will be:

  • Francis Fukuyama, author of Political Order and Political Decay; Professor, Stanford University;
  • John Micklethwait, co-author of The Fourth Revolution; Editor-in-Chief, Bloomberg L.P.; and
  • Philip K. Howard, author of The Rule of Nobody; Chair, Common Good.
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May 12 Forum: Rethinking Infrastructure Approvals

Part of Infrastructure Week 2015 |

View invitation as a PDF.

Common Good, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the National Association of Manufacturers, and Covington & Burling LLP invite you to attend a morning forum on accelerating infrastructure approvals on Tuesday, May 12 in Washington, DC.

The forum, which is part of Infrastructure Week 2015, will include keynote addresses by key members of the Administration and Congress (invitations in process), a presentation on best practices from other countries, plus two panels of experts discussing how to achieve these goals:

1. Better environmental reviews, accomplished in months or a few years, not a decade.
2. How to consolidate permits. 

The forum’s goal is to explore bold proposals for simplifying, accelerating, and improving the infrastructure approval process. Red tape must be cut if America wants to reap all the benefits of new infrastructure projects—enhanced competitiveness, millions of jobs, and a greener environmental footprint.

Participants include leaders of industry, labor, government, and environmental protection (list not final):

Keynote Remarks: U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Victor Mendez

Robyn M. Boerstling, National Association of Manufacturers
Clarke Bruno, Anbaric Transmission
Shawn Denstedt Q.C., Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt (Canada)
E. Donald Elliott, Covington & Burling; formerly of EPA
Patrick J. Foye, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Gary S. Guzy, Covington & Burling; formerly of CEQ and EPA
Philip K. Howard, Common Good
Kelly S. Huffman, Poseidon Water
Sarah Kline, Bipartisan Policy Center
Deron Lovaas, Natural Resources Defense Council
Nick A. Malyshev, OECD
Diana C. Mendes, AECOM
Joann Papageorgis, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
John D. Porcari, Parsons Brinckerhoff; formerly of the U.S. Department of Transportation
Mark R. Tercek, The Nature Conservancy

For more information, visit Infrastructure Week 2015’s website at

Event Details:

Title: Rethinking Infrastructure Approvals

When: Tuesday, May 12, 2015; 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, with lunch to follow. Registration and breakfast begin at 8:15 AM.

Where: Covington & Burling LLP, 10th Floor, One CityCenter, 850 Tenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001

To RSVP, please e-mail your name, position, affiliation, and contact information to Ruth Mary Giverin at All attendees must register before the day of the event. Please e-mail Ruth with any questions as well.

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The Future of the Individual: Video Excerpts

Click on the images below to watch excerpts from The Future of the Individual, Common Good and Columbia University’s November 6 forum on the social and economic developments that are diminishing the role of the individual in the modern world.

Here’s Common Good Chair Philip Howard on how we have the wrong idea of “the rule of law”:

Here’s former Indianapolis mayor and New York City deputy mayor Stephen Goldsmith on how innovation within government is “illegal”:

Click here to watch Mr. Goldsmith’s entire presentation.

Here’s Doctored author Dr. Sandeep Jauhar on the effects of bureaucracy on health care:

Click here to watch Dr. Jauhar’s entire presentation.

Here’s Brookings senior fellow Robert Litan on possible solutions:

Click here to watch Mr. Litan’s entire presentation.

And click here to read Philip and Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps’ joint statement from the event, “Humans vs. Bureaucracy.”

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Humans vs. Bureaucracy

The following statement by Philip K. Howard and Edmund Phelps was presented in conjunction with Common Good's recent joint forum with Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society, "The Future of the Individual." In the coming days we will post videos and summaries from the forum. This joint statement can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Nothing gets done sensibly, or fairly, unless a real person makes it happen. This is true for a teacher in a classroom, a CEO in a company, a nurse in a hospital, a worker on a shop floor, an inspector of a restaurant, or a high official in Washington.

Making these choices requires an open zone in which the responsible individual feels free to draw on experience and instinct to make a judgment. Sometimes the decision will be a good one, sometimes it won’t. This process of trial and error is how people learn. It is part of economic advancement and the rewards of work. Similarly, achieving innovation requires a real person to imagine the product or method, to judge whether it has a chance of success, and to create the thing.

Today, Western nations are organized to avoid individual choice. Rules and systems tell us how to do things “correctly.” Mindless compliance supplants personal responsibility to achieve a result. The idea is that systems, not humans, will lead us to the promised land.

The harm is not just ideological—that individuals are less free. The harm is practical—things don’t work. Schools are lousy, healthcare unaffordable, government paralyzed, and people feel powerless to do anything about it. Economic growth is slower and the labor force has shrunk—observations suggest that innovation is constricted and job satisfaction has narrowed.

America needs a new public philosophy. Humans must be reinstated as the activating force. Systems and regulations must be rebuilt as a corral with an open area for human responsibility, not as an instruction manual that dictates daily choices. Corporate attitudes that block innovators from building in communities and handicap outsiders from competing with insiders must be exposed as costly to human fulfillment. Law should be a framework for free choice, not a replacement. 

Put humans in charge. A revolution will be required. But that is proof only of how far we’ve slipped. This is not just a plea for better public policy. This is a new belief structure. Let us take responsibility. Judge how we do, don’t tell us how to do it.

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The Future of the Individual: A Forum with Philip Howard and Edmund Phelps

Event program with agenda.

On Thursday, November 6, Common Good and Columbia University’s Center on Capitalism and Society will hold an afternoon forum in New York City on reviving the conditions for individual initiative in America. The event’s hosts are Common Good’s Philip K. Howard and Nobel laureate Edmund S. Phelps of Columbia’s Center on Capitalism and Society. Other expected participants include:

  • William R. Brody, MD, Salk Institute
  • Stephen Goldsmith, former Mayor of Indianapolis
  • Anthony Gottlieb, former Executive Editor of The Economist
  • Heather R. Higgins, Randolph Foundation
  • Kay S. Hymowitz, Manhattan Institute
  • Sandeep Jauhar, MD, author of Doctored
  • Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University
  • Robert E. Litan, Brookings Institution
  • James Mackintosh, Financial Times
  • Peter Pazzaglini, Columbia University
  • Robert Pondiscio, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
  • Andrzej Rapaczynski, Columbia Law School
  • Richard Robb, Columbia University
  • Esa Saarinen, Aalto University (Finland)
  • Robert J. Shiller, Yale University
  • William H. Simon, Columbia Law School
  • Juan Vicente Sola, University of Buenos Aires
  • Mark C. Taylor, Columbia University

The forum will address how bureaucracy, corporatism, and cultural trends have diminished the room for individual autonomy and initiative, and will explore possible solutions. Reforms to expand individual opportunities and ownership of daily choices include simplifying regulatory structures, changing corporate incentives away from short-term thinking, fostering decentralized government, discouraging uniform solutions to social problems, sponsoring local manufacturing to build the conditions for know-how, redirecting education toward imagination and creativity, and expanding the public narrative to highlight the role of human initiative in all accomplishment.

The forum will consist of short opening presentations, followed by four panels. A cocktail hour will conclude the event.

Event Details

Title: The Future of the Individual

Date: Thursday, November 6

Time: 1:00 PM to 5:30 PM (followed by a cocktail hour). Registration and lunch begin at noon. Event program with agenda.

Location: Covington & Burling, 43rd Floor, The New York Times Building, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY

RSVP: Registration required. Please e-mail your name, title, and affiliation to Ruth Mary Giverin at Please e-mail Ruth with any questions as well.

This event is made possible by the generous support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

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John Micklethwait & Philip K. Howard on Commissions

The Economist's editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait, recently joined Philip Howard for a discussion around their two recent books: Micklethwait's The Fourth Revolution and Howard's The Rule of Nobody. Watch an excerpt of their conversation here:

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Video: Infrastructure Now forum

The benefits of greater public and private investment in infrastructure are enormous—job creation, enhanced economic competitiveness, and a greener footprint. But first, America has to fix its paralytic legal infrastructure. Common Good and Regional Plan Association hosted a forum in Washington, D.C. on November 21 to explore obstacles to effective infrastructure investment and solutions to the regulatory and beaurocratic mess. Below, see video of all the presentations from the Infrastructure Now forum. A full schedule of the event can be viewed here, and you can read Common Good's press release on the forum here.

Senator Angus King (I-ME) introduced the forum, observing that because of our convoluted approval process, many of our most crucial infrastructure projects could not be built today:


Diana Mendes of the engineering consulting firm AECOM continued with comments on the history of environmental review, the National Environmental Policy Act, and what we can do today to achieve NEPA's goals without crippling our ability to undertake infrastructure projects (Mendes also used a slide presentation which you can download here):


Nick Malyshev of the OECD compared international approval processes that hold lessons for the U.S. approach (Malyshev's slide presentation can be downloaded here):


A panel of experts on environmental review shared a variety of perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for reform of the environmental review process:


Finally, a second panel investigated the issue of jurisdictional overlap in infrastructure permitting:

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Common Good Online Forum on Risk in Schools

We entrust our children to teachers and principals with the expectation that they will be both educated and protected from harm. When, inevitably, incidents happen—especially when those incidents are tragic and well-publicized—communities often press for stricter rules and procedures. But are all of the rules and procedures wise? Do they truly make schools and children safer and better? One school, for example, suspended a six-year-old for "pointing his finger like a gun and saying 'pow,'" while another suspended two boys for playing cops and robbers.

To shield themselves from legal exposure, schools have attempted to eliminate every conceivable risk—no tire swings, no dodgeball, no monkey bars. Field trips require complex liability waivers. Every activity requires paperwork—documentation, permissions, waivers. Our schools must be safe, but are some of the steps taken to protect against every possible lawsuit and risk doing more harm than good?

Common Good is hosting an online forum to address this question, with experts on education, parenting, and the law, including:

  • Lenore Skenazy, author and founder of Free Range Kids
  • Frederick Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute
  • Nancy McDermott, writer and former chair of the advisory board for Park Slope Parents
  • Walter Olson, senior fellow at the Cato Institute
  • Megan Rosker, teacher and founder of Let Children Play

These experts have already started talking about how to address risk and legal fear in schools.

Add your ideas to the conversation here.

Find out what our panelists think and contribute your comments and questions below.

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Common Good online forum on obsolete law solutions

Obsolete law is a significant––yet largely ignored––cause of government budget deficits and an obstacle to economic growth. Yesterday’s laws and regulations do not adequately address today’s needs; worse yet, they often senselessly tie the hands of government officials and Americans in every sector of society, preventing them from making common sense decisions to address challenges or create opportunities.

For these reasons, Common Good is hosting an online discussion of obsolete law and what to do about it––enabling leading experts to engage with concerned citizens.

The discussion will begin December 12 at and will continue through the coming week. Among the participating experts are:

  • E. Donald Elliott – former General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; current partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Adjunct Professor at Yale Law School;
  • Mary Kiffmeyer – Member, Minnesota House of Representatives; former Secretary of State of Minnesota;
  • James Maxeiner – Co-Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law, University of Baltimore School of Law; author of the book Failures of American Lawmaking in International Perspective;
  • Stuart Taylor, Jr. – author and journalist, who has written extensively on legal and policy issues and has taught “Law and the News Media” at Stanford Law School;
  • Ron Faucheux – former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and a U.S. Senate chief of staff; currently President of Clarus Research Group.

The topic of this online discussion is straightforward: What approach would you recommend for addressing obsolete law, and why and how would you implement it? The experts will each share their perspectives, engage in an online discussion, and respond to members of the public, who are invited to comment as the discussion unfolds.

Follow the conversation and add your thoughts at!

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