*** How to Run a Government by Michael Barber

How to Run a Government: So That Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers Don’t Go Crazy is a surprisingly entertaining book with many examples from around the world on how to run public services. The 57 rules provided by the author are sometimes staggeringly simple (sample: “have an agenda”, duh) but somehow the text manages to add details and subtlety to deliver an absorbing message. The idea I liked best was to stop designing public services in a “trust and altruism” mode, where civil servants are presumed to always do the right thing, but to instead use appropriate competition, rewards, nudges, and transparent metrics to ensure that less “knightly” civil servants are encouraged to work a little harder.

Overall, this is a very optimistic book with lots of encouraging stories of how institutions can make great progress to better serve citizens.


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