It’s not too late to start a new book. And if you need a good idea or two, here are a few that Utah’s politicos are reading. This is the eighth in a series on what Utah’s politicians have on their summer reading lists.
Representative Robert Spendlove represents Utah’s 49th Legislative District, which covers much of south-east Salt Lake County. When I asked for his reading list, he tried to downplay it as “technical,” but despite his teaching a class in policy analysis this summer at University of Utah (he’s an economist), it’s an interesting–and weighty–list.
Robert Spendlove’s Summer Reading
With his original eightfold approach, Bardach encapsulates more than 35 years of teaching students effective, accurate, and persuasive policy analysis. This bestselling handbook presents dozens of concrete tips, interesting case studies, and step-by-step strategies for the budding analyst as well as the seasoned professional.
In this new edition, Bardach clarifies some of the book s exposition, paying particular attention to “design problems” and the choice of a “base case.” Up-to-date examples, including a new set of environmental problems, make the book even more engaging.
Readers will also appreciate a sample document of real world policy analysis, a primer in how to “talk the talk” of policy analysis, and a cheat sheet of strategies for solving a host of policy problems.
Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making (Third Edition) by Deborah Stone
Policy making is a political struggle over values and ideas. By exposing the paradoxes that underlie even seemingly straightforward policy decisions, Policy Paradox shows students that politics cannot be cleansed from the process in favor of “rationality.” Author Deborah Stone has fully revised and updated this popular text, which now includes many paradoxes that have arisen since September 11. Examples throughout the book have been updated, and the prose has been streamlined to make a great read even better.
- Theories of the Policy Process by Paul A. Sabatier and Christopher M.Weible
Since the first edition published in 1999 with editor Paul Sabatier, Theories of the Policy Process has served as the quintessential gateway to the field of policy process research for students, scholars and practitioners alike. This enduring and well-regarded volume provides a forum for the creators of, or scholars with deep expertise in, the most established and widely used theoretical frameworks to present the basic propositions, empirical evidence, latest updates, and promising directions for future research. This brief but comprehensive volume covers such classics as Multiple Streams (Zahariadis), Punctuated Equilibrium (Jones et al), Advocacy Coalition Framework (Jenkins-Smith et al.), Institutional Analysis and Development Framework (Ostrom et al.), Policy Diffusion (Berry & Berry), and Social Construction and Policy Design (Schneider et al).
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb
A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11. For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
Why do we not acknowledge the phenomenon of black swans until after they occur? Part of the answer, according to Taleb, is that humans are hardwired to learn specifics when they should be focused on generalities. We concentrate on things we already know and time and time again fail to take into consideration what we don’t know. We are, therefore, unable to truly estimate opportunities, too vulnerable to the impulse to simplify, narrate, and categorize, and not open enough to rewarding those who can imagine the “impossible.”
For years, Taleb has studied how we fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. We restrict our thinking to the irrelevant and inconsequential, while large events continue to surprise us and shape our world. In this revelatory book, Taleb explains everything we know about what we don’t know, and this second edition features a new philosophical and empirical essay, “On Robustness and Fragility,” which offers tools to navigate and exploit a Black Swan world.
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The gap between rich and poor has never been wider…legislative stalemate paralyzes the country…corporations resist federal regulations…spectacular mergers produce giant companies…the influence of money in politics deepens…bombs explode in crowded streets…small wars proliferate far from our shores…a dizzying array of inventions speeds the pace of daily life.
These unnervingly familiar headlines serve as the backdrop for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s highly anticipated The Bully Pulpit—a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.
The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft—a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country’s history.
The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources. The muckrakers are portrayed through the greatest group of journalists ever assembled at one magazine—Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White—teamed under the mercurial genius of publisher S. S. McClure.
Goodwin’s narrative is founded upon a wealth of primary materials. The correspondence of more than four hundred letters between Roosevelt and Taft begins in their early thirties and ends only months before Roosevelt’s death. Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft kept diaries. The muckrakers wrote hundreds of letters to one another, kept journals, and wrote their memoirs. The letters of Captain Archie Butt, who served as a personal aide to both Roosevelt and Taft, provide an intimate view of both men.
The Union had won the Civil War; slavery was abolished. Lincoln, an early champion of railroads, would not live to see the next great achievment. It took brains, muscle, and sweat in quantities and scope never before ventured and required engineers and surveyors willing to lose their lives in the wilderness; men who had commanded and obeyed in war; workers from China, Ireland, and the defeated South; and capitalists betting their money for possible profit. The government pitted the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific against each other in a race for funding, encouraging speed over caution. Locomotives, rails, and spikes were shipped from the east through Panama, around South America, or lugged across the country. The railroad was the last great building project to be done by hand: excavating dirt, cutting through ridges, filling gorges, blasting tunnels. Nothing like this great railroad had been seen in the world when the last spike, a golden one, was driven in at Promontory Peak, Utah, in 1869, as the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific joined tracks. Ambrose writes with power and eloquence about the brave men who accomplished the spectacular feat that made the nation one.
- Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
In their runaway bestseller Game Change, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann captured the full drama of Barack Obama’s improbable, dazzling victory over the Clintons, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. With the same masterly reporting, unparalleled access, and narrative skill, Double Down picks up the story in the Oval Office, where the president is beset by crises both inherited and unforeseen—facing defiance from his political foes, disenchantment from the voters, disdain from the nation’s powerful money machers, and dysfunction within the West Wing. As 2012 looms, leaders of the Republican Party, salivating over Obama’s political fragility, see a chance to wrest back control of the White House—and the country. So how did the Republicans screw it up? How did Obama survive the onslaught of super PACs and defy the predictions of a one-term presidency? Double Down follows the gaudy carnival of GOP contenders—ambitious and flawed, famous and infamous, charismatic and cartoonish—as Mitt Romney, the straitlaced, can-do, gaffe-prone multimillionaire from Massachusetts, scraped and scratched his way to the nomination.
Double Down exposes blunders, scuffles, and machinations far beyond the klieg lights of the campaign trail: Obama storming out of a White House meeting with his high command after accusing them of betrayal. Romney’s mind-set as he made his controversial “47 percent” comments. The real reasons New Jersey governor Chris Christie was never going to be Mitt’s running mate. The intervention held by the president’s staff to rescue their boss from political self-destruction. The way the tense détente between Obama and Bill Clinton morphed into political gold. And the answer to one of the campaign’s great mysteries—how did Clint Eastwood end up performing Dada dinner theater at the Republican convention?
In Double Down, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann take the reader into back rooms and closed-door meetings, laying bare the secret history of the 2012 campaign for a panoramic account of an election that was as hard fought as it was lastingly consequential.