Over at the Journal of Things We Like (Lots) — aka Jotwell, which I explain further here — Linda Jellum has a solid reviewof Nicholas Parrillo ‘s terrific book Against the Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780-1940 (2013). The Law and Society Association provides a great summary of the book:
Professor Jellum sketches out a number of implications the book’s findings have for the modern administrative state, including a cautionary tale about current privatization efforts.* Here’s a taste from her Jotwell review:
[T]he book is an interesting, albeit comprehensive, read. It is an exhaustively researched and sophisticated analysis of the transformation in the way public officials are paid. Notably, the conclusions Professor Parrillo draws offer an important cautionary tale for using economic incentives to motivate public officials in modern times. He teaches that if we believe in a professional and politically insulated government service and if we want broad participation in administrative government, then we must fight against those who argue that government should be run like for-profit businesses.
This book is a fascinating read for anyone interested in the history (and future) of administrative law and regulation. It’s just a superb contribution to the academic literature, as evidenced by receiving theHurst Award from the Law and Society Association for the year’s best book on socio-legal history and the ABA Administrative Law Section’s annual award for the best book or article in the field. The book provides so many insights into the past that have a lot of relevance to the present and future of the regulatory state. And if you like this book, I’d recommend Professor Parrillo’s Yale Law Journal article on the rise of legislative history during the first half of the twentieth century .
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that Balkinization hosted an online symposium about the book (contributions are collected here), and you can access the introductory chapter for free here as well as a talk about the book here.
* I have one minor nit about Professor Jellum’s review concerning her observation that the book is “imperfect” because Professor Parrillo “fails to fully explore the relevance of the past to the possibilities of the future, leaving the reader to make those connections.” I tend to agree more with the Law and Society Association’s assessment that the book is “filled with smart observations and insights; it is sprawling in its coverage and its use of archival materials, yet it is meticulously organized and constructed so as to carry the reader through a long period of time and a wide array of government operations.” For me, the lack of a normative or predictive angle is a major feature — not a bug — of serious legal history scholarship and of this book in particular.