Government Project

Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 1951.

This is an account of an attempt by one of the biggest, most efficient, and most democratic of governments — that of the United States — to remake the lives of a few of its citizens by establishing a cooperative farm at Casa Grande in the Arizona desert. These few citizens… were among the most desperately poor and disadvantaged in the nation. The government made an elaborate effort to help them, an effort which was sustained for seven years, which involved the investment of more than $1,000,000, and which required the almost constant attention of several officials. Without wishing to prejudice the case (for the author wants the reader to judge for himself) it is fair to say that the government’s effort was administered honestly, zealously, and… efficiently. Nevertheless the cooperative farm was a failure. It collapsed at the very moment when to all outward appearances its chances for prosperity and success were greatest.

“Government Project is a very good book. One can see in it the seeds from which most, if not all, of Banfield’s subsequent research grew. Government Project, as Wilson points out, is about the problem of human cooperation, a subject to which Banfield devoted his scholarly life over the next four decades…. Government Project is also unbelievably well written, deftly unspooling both a narrative and an analysis… [It] illustrates some of the perennial challenges of public administration that are rooted in the finitude and balkiness of human beings. ” — Kevin R. Kosar

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