Policy Report

Better Than Government
A New Way of Managing Life’s Risks


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For decades, people have increasingly sought to better manage life’s risks by appealing for help from their government, even when other alternatives would yield better results. Moreover, the growing dependence on government to solve major life problems has taken a heavy toll—higher taxes, greater political polarization, and numerous hidden costs and unintended consequences.

Fortunately, we need not resign ourselves to this predicament. Opportunities for better managing life’s risks and reducing government waste are all around us, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow John C. Goodman.

In Better Than Government: A New Way of Managing Life’s Risks, Goodman draws on decades of deep thinking to offer a fresh approach to solving major social and economic problems, one that focuses on making all stakeholders in all important policy changes better off.

At its core are three strategies.

Strategy #1: Seek out and implement win/win policy changes.

A typical government program is funded by taxpayers and provides goods, services, or money to a group of beneficiaries. Imagine that you could change a program in ways that reduce costs but not benefits. Everyone would win. Who could possibly object to that? The U.S. political system offers thousands of opportunities to make win/win policy changes.

Strategy #2: Embrace the trial-and-error principle.

Whenever a public policy has two opposing alternatives, such that when we move back and forth between them one kind of cost falls and another rises, there is nearly always some intermediate point where everyone gains. We can’t find that point by armchair theorizing, however. To discover these win-win outcomes, we must be willing to experiment and adapt. That is, we must be willing to experiment as private markets do every day.

Strategy #3: Employ win/win thinking to solve our most difficult public policy problems—those created by social insurance.

The expansion of social insurance has been the key driver of our worsening fiscal predicament. If the United States continues on its current course, within a few decades the federal government will need double the amount of tax revenue it collects now. As the government prepares to take more of our income, however, households face greater barriers to earning more income. Fortunately, the use of win/win thinking and policy experimentation offers great hope—perhaps our only hope—for averting a major financial meltdown caused by runaway spending on social insurance.

Goodman’s Better than Government offers a breath of fresh air. Moreover, the widespread recognition of government inefficiencies creates an opening for policymakers across the partisan divide to apply the three powerful strategies for win/win policy changes.

We have much to gain by trying them, but nothing to lose.


John C. Goodman is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, President of the Goodman Institute for Public Policy Research, and author of the widely acclaimed Independent books, A Better Choice: Healthcare Solutions for America, and the award-winning, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis. The Wall Street Journal and the National Journal, among other media, have called him the “Father of Health Savings Accounts.”