The Shadow Government: The Government's Multi-Billion-Dollar Giveaway of its Decision-Making Powers to Private Management Consultants, "Experts," and Think Tanks
a book by Daniel Guttman and Barry Willner
(our site's book review)
In keeping with the American ethos that private is better than public, a large part of the business of government has been contracted out to accounting firms, think tanks, management consultants, and industrial corporations like McKinsey and Co., Peat, Marwick, Mitchell, and Co., the Stanford Research Institute, the RAND Corporation, Booz, Allen, and Hamilton, Westinghouse, and the Brookings Institution, among many others. The contractors do not merely build hardware and carry out a myriad of mundane tasks. They increasingly perform the functions of government itself, albeit in the guise of private efficiency and disinterested expertise, without accountability to the public. But the question Is it proper to delegate public affairs to a shadow government of private, corporate, and governmental constituents? is never answered to anyone's satisfaction, therefore why even ask it (which the book does)?
Why not just say bureaucrats are lazy, love to avoid responsibility, and love even more getting paid to assign work rather than do work? In addition, by throwing money and work at their corporate buddies, they ultimately profit from the revolving door between private and public employment which gets greased by "you scratch my back and I'll scratch your back." This revolving door gives new meaning to the expression "what goes around comes around."
By throwing money and work at their corporate buddies, government workers ultimately profit from the revolving door between private and public employment
Descriptions of particular tasks for which the government sought outside help comprise most of the book, which the book description failed to warn the purchasers about. Had these narrations been built around a hypothesis or theory, such as true accountability or the efficatious utilization of expertise, then the authors may have conjured up something meaningful to say. As it stands, readers must draw their own conclusions. And even these will be iffy. For the authors' obvious contempt for contractors is manifest in a slanted selection of examples and sources, making much of their book suspicious.
Such prejudice may also underlie what might otherwise be perceived as a superficial treatment of the subject matter. For example, the authors insinuate, without much evidence, that contractors are more expensive than are government employees. Consideration is not given to their relative abilities or to marketplace dynamics where the intense competition in the private sector for government contracts may result in lower costs than an agency could achieve if government overhead costs were factored in. The authors are also troubled by sole-source contracts. But one cannot infer that the lack of competition bothers the authors, since their clear preference is for in-house endeavors—a preference that is manifest throughout the book. Despite its faults, however, the book does further our understanding of the consulting industry.
However, not only the superficial content of this book but the title of this tome, also, leaves much to be desired, since there are at least a dozen good books that competently and insightfully deal with various aspects of the shadow government, and this is definitely NOT one of them. In fact, we view it as a clear case of trying to hitch a ride on the coattails of more competent authors by using a popular phrase out of context. Although government contractors are an element in the makeup of the shadow government and they're used to avoid accountability which is a common goal in most bureaucracies, they are simply not the point in any capable discussion of the true makeup and meaning of The Shadow Government.
The correct point is that the shadow government is composed of such people as greedy oligarchs, movers and shakers, and bigwigs that were not elected, do not act in the public interest but in their own greedy neocon interest, and are the people with the power in the USA. They are pulling the puppet strings of the people—who we elect—that pretend to have the power, which is why those we elect not only don't keep their promises, they often do the opposite of what they promised they would do (e.g., Obama). Since the shadow government has been around for most of last century and all of this century, the 1976 tome—The Shadow Government: The Government's Multi-Billion-Dollar Giveaway of its Decision-Making Powers to Private Management Consultants, "Experts," and Think Tanks—has no good excuse for missing the mark to such an egregious extent.
Shadow government neocons are pulling the puppet strings of the people—who we elect—that pretend to have the power, which is why those we elect not only don't keep their promises, they often do the opposite of what they promised they would do (e.g., Obama)
A better way to get insight into government contractors is by checking out the 2011 book One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy, which has something meaningful to say about outsourcing. Contracting out work is a necessity given the ascendancy of the private sector as a key player in diplomacy in a globalized world. The president's error has been to outsource proper oversight and contractor accountability, which is a lazy approach that is dangerous. Allison Stanger, the author, is also upset by—and sceptical of— the Pentagon's usurpation and militarizing of diplomatic and nation-building roles previously under the aegis of the State Department. Another book that is rightly sceptial of militarizing of diplomatic and nation-building roles is The Rise of Global Civil Society: Building Communities and Nations from the Bottom Up, an excellent book by Don Eberly.
However, the mother lode of insight into the accountability dearth comes from these books by Janine R. Wedel: Shadow Elite: How the World's New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market and Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom, and Security. If she wrote a book in 2017, it would surely trace the evolution from political fibs to "truthiness" to fake news to serial lying, these latter two being the stars of the show in the 2016 election circus, complete with Trump's Twitter tweets, "nasty woman" t-shirts, Russian hacking and Hillary's infamous email servers.