Recoding America

ebook Why Government Is Failing in the Digital Age and How We Can Do Better

By Jennifer Pahlka

cover image of Recoding America

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Named one of NPR's Best Books of 2023
Named one of Ezra Klein's "Books That Explain Where We Are in 2023," The New York Times
Learn more about Jennifer Pahlka's work at
"The book I wish every policymaker would read."

Ezra Klein, The New York Times

A bold call to reexamine how our government operates—and sometimes fails to
from President Obama's former deputy chief technology officer and the founder of Code for America
Just when we most need our government to work—to decarbonize our infrastructure and economy, to help the vulnerable through a pandemic, to defend ourselves against global threats—it is faltering. Government at all levels has limped into the digital age, offering online services that can feel even more cumbersome than the paperwork that preceded them and widening the gap between the policy outcomes we intend and what we get.
But it's not more money or more tech we need. Government is hamstrung by a rigid, industrial-era culture, in which elites dictate policy from on high, disconnected from and too often disdainful of the details of implementation. Lofty goals morph unrecognizably as they cascade through a complex hierarchy. But there is an approach taking hold that keeps pace with today's world and reclaims government for the people it is supposed to serve. Jennifer Pahlka shows why we must stop trying to move the government we have today onto new technology and instead consider what it would mean to truly recode American government.

Recoding America