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The Project on Political Reform investigates the sources of political and government dysfunction and identifies pragmatic solutions. PPR addresses topics such as legislative decision making, lobbying, political accountability, campaign laws and practices, political polarization, erosion of democratic norms, structural incentives influencing candidate and office-holder behavior, and the relationships between governing institutions. PPR focuses primarily on local, state, and federal government in the United States but, at times, may also address governmental dysfunction in other Western democracies.
PPR is nonpartisan and strongly committed to thoughtful, evidence-based policy making without regard to political party or ideology.
At present, it is not at all clear that the U.S. government is up to the task of solving the problems of a modern, complex society. In fact, in this era of hyper partisanship, the one thing that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents agree on is this: our government is broken. A more effectual public sector will be required if we are to meet this nation’s growing economic and social challenges.
Moreover, improving governmental functionality and accountability are essential for maintaining and strengthening support for crucial democratic institutions in the U.S. and other western democracies. Indeed, the rising antagonism toward democratic values such as an independent judiciary, a free news media, and a capitalistic economic orientation underscore the increasing urgency of addressing dysfunctions that undermine confidence. Unfortunately, to date, the national response to this emerging challenge has been more akin to hand-wringing than to serious and informed remediation.
PPR, however, is well-position to perform a constructive role in addressing this imposing and increasingly urgent challenge. Specifically, PPR addresses three important needs:
For more information on these and other PPR initiatives, email Marc Farinella.
If you are currently considering a PhD in political science or political economy, or if you are advising students in this position, we encourage you to consider Harris Public Policy at the University of Chicago. In particular, if you want to study political institutions, political behavior, the political economy of democracies (including American politics), or the politics of the policy making process, and if you want to develop skills in formal theory or design-based causal inference, this is the program for you. Here are 7 reasons.
How the U.S. Constitution undermines effective government.
His book, Imperfect Union was featured on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:
Learn to create change through political campaigns.
Testing the assumptions on the inner workings of democracy.
Harnessing the power of data to drive policy – and transforming lives.
William Howell, Director of PPR, is the Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at Harris Public Policy and a professor in the Department of Political Science and the College. He has written widely on separation-of-powers issues and American political institutions, especially the presidency. He currently is working on research projects on Obama's education initiatives, distributive politics and the normative foundations of executive power.
Marc Farinella (MA '87), Executive Director of PPR, is a Senior Fellow and former Chief Operating Officer of Harris Public Policy. During his twenty-five year career in government and politics, he has served as a gubernatorial chief of staff, political campaign director, and political and public policy adivsor to governors, U.S. Senators and political candidates across the nation.
Harris Students: Do you want to feel more engaged in our surrounding communities? Want to develop valuable experience in Public Sector Consulting and Management? Join the Community Action Bureau (CAB), a joint project of PPR and the University of Chicago Office of Civic Engagement.
Through this certificate program, sponsored by the Project on Political Reform, students learn the core analytic and technical skills used in modern political campaigns, as well as the social scientific principles to evaluate and apply these skills appropriately. Such expertise is essential to the running of modern electoral and advocacy campaigns.