Can government do anything right?

Award-winning author and public policy scholar Alasdair Roberts will address that question in an April 12 lecture at Suffolk University as well as in a forthcoming book by the same name – and his answer to the question may come as a surprise to some. He argues that Western democracies are doing better than most people realize.

White book cover with text Can Government Do Anything Right and author Alasdair Roberts

Suffolk has invited Roberts, a professor of political science and public policy and director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, to speak as a distinguished visiting lecturer during the Government Department’s Student Research Conference.

Roberts writes on problems of public administration, law and public policy. He has received several awards for his writing and Canada’s Grace-Pepin Award for his research on open government.  Roberts is also a fellow of the US National Academy of Public Administration.

Roberts' recent book Can Government Do Anything Right? (Polity Books), to be released in March, explores what government does well and what it does badly. He acknowledges that people throughout the Western world are frustrated with their leaders but questions whether the track record of Western governments is really so awful.

Governing has always been extraordinarily difficult, Roberts writes, and the performance of Western democracies in recent decades is, admittedly, far from perfect. But Roberts argues it is also much better than one might think.

“There are lots of folks saying everything is going to hell. Democracies are failing. Countries are failing to adapt to new circumstances,” says Roberts. “This book argues that we’re getting a little carried away. On the fundamentals we are doing better than we realize. Having said that, governing is tough, and there are these moments in history where you have to recalibrate your strategy for governing the country. Abandoning old ways of thinking and accepting new ways is a slow and difficult process. So we are at a hinge point, but we are not in danger of collapse.”

Roberts will speak from 4 p.m. – 5:15 p.m., Thursday, April 12, in Suffolk University’s Poetry Center in the Mildred F. Sawyer Library, Rosalie Stahl Center, 73 Tremont St., Boston.