Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

Oxford Univ. Mar. 2023. 232p. ISBN 9780197637043. $29.95. POL SCI
Berman and Fox, coauthors of Trial & Error in Criminal Justice Reform, draw on their background in criminal justice reform to offer a fresh look at the current political situation in the United States. Their basic argument is that incremental reform is the best way to address today’s social problems. They cite polls and surveys to claim that the public “does not hunger” for radical change, neither on the left nor on the right. The book describes several successful incremental case studies: the creation of Social Security, evolving immigration policy, the reduction of incarcerations in New York City, and the federal budget process. The authors also critique large government programs that do and don’t work and dissect the impact of “conflict entrepreneurs” (e.g., Donald Trump) on the political process. The book says there are four “values” of incrementalism—honesty, humility, nuance, and respect—that serve as a worthy approach toward effective policymaking. The literature of political science is mined to bolster this approach, especially the writings of Edmund Burke, Karl Popper, and Charles Lindblom.
VERDICT Students of American government and public policy will gain useful insights from this study, and they may even view American politics in a whole new manner.
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