In This Review

Governing for the Long Term: Democracy and the Politics of Investment
Governing for the Long Term: Democracy and the Politics of Investment
By Alan M. Jacobs
Cambridge University Press, 2011, 320 pp

Policymakers and journalists tend to live in the here and now. They leave it to social scientists such as Jacobs to tackle important issues that are too diffuse or complex to explain in a stump speech or a newspaper article. Many tough problems facing modern democracies require that immediate pain be inflicted on citizens in exchange for broader, long-term benefits. Jacobs argues that in order to succeed in managing these “intertemporal policy choices,” politicians must surmount three political challenges: focusing the attention of voters, correctly predicting positive long-term trends, and committing to policy solutions even when they are opposed by influential interest groups. To simplify a complex argument, Jacobs is a Goldilocks democrat: only governments that are neither too populist nor too insulated can create and maintain fair long-term policies. This book contains much sound and detailed policy advice drawn from detailed case studies of policymaking in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, especially with regard to pension reform. Yet Jacobs’ insightful analysis can also be applied to debt reduction, global warming, education, immigration, and many other controversial issues.