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Guest on The Infra Blog: Philip K. Howard, Founder & Chair, Common Good

Posted by Steve Anderson on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Philip K. Howard on The Infra BlogPhilip K. Howard is a well-known leader of government and legal reform in America. In 2002, he formed Common Good, a nonpartisan national coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America.

The son of a minister, Philip got his start working summers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory for Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner and has been active in public affairs his entire adult life. He is a prominent civic leader in New York City and has advised national political leaders on legal and regulatory reform for fifteen years, including Vice President Al Gore and numerous governors.

Common Good recently published a report called Two Years Not Ten Years: Redesigning Infrastructure Approvals that proposes cutting legislative red tape in order to fast-track approvals for infrastructure projects.

Two Years, Not Ten Years: The Outrageous Cost of Delaying Infra Projects
…no one has the authority to actually approve the infrastructure, and if anything is in the least bit controversial it takes a decade or longer to get approval…what we did in this report was actually try to quantify the cost of delay. What does this decade-long approval process do to our prospects and costs of rebuilding America’s infrastructure? Well, it turns out that the delay costs far exceed the actual cost of rebuilding the infrastructure. More than double.

It’s Time for a System-Wide Overhaul
…we’re at one of those points where lots of things have to change in our society, and one of them happens to be the legal infrastructure. You can’t have a democracy where the people you elect actually don’t have the authority that goes along with their responsibility…it’s kind of a form of legal mental illness. It’s bad for everybody. Bad for the environment, bad for costs, bad for everybody.

Decisive Leadership Excites the Public
Authority has kind of a gravitational pull because they feel like that person, they may make a decision that I don’t like and so that gets you more excited about who you elect, and then once you’re elected it gets people more excited about staying in touch with them and arguing and participating in public hearings. When nobody can make a decision, everything just stays the same, and that’s sort of where we are in this country.

Common Good: Making the System Work Again
Common Good is a non-partisan organization dedicated to updating and simplifying our legal structures so that people can make choices during the day that are practical and make sense to the people affected by them, instead of, for example, being stuck in an endless bureaucracy.

Download full transcript (PDF): Philip K. Howard on The Infra Blog

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