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Philip Howard

Government Overhaul Advocate, TED Speaker, and Best-Selling Author
  • Author of the landmark best-seller The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America
  • Called “an eminently reasonable, articulate advocate for common sense solutions” by Jon Stewart
  • Expert on law, bureaucracy, the role of government, and policy development
Topics & Types
Law & Legal AffairsTED Speakers

Philip K. Howard – bestselling author, civic leader, and chair of the nonpartisan Common Good – is one of America’s leading proponents of government simplification, streamlining regulations, and legal reform. His civic leadership, which first came to national attention with his bestselling book The Death of Common Sense, has led him to advise Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump as well as numerous governors of both political parties.

His landmark infrastructure study Two Years, Not Ten Years has been widely cited as the basis for the Trump administration’s initiatives to streamline infrastructure permitting, which often takes a decade or more for major projects. Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, referred to those efforts as President Trump’s “10-to-two plan.” An editorial in The Wall Street Journal said of Howard’s study: “It’s hard to imagine a more sensible and politically achievable idea—and one better suited to restoring public confidence that government can carry out its basic duties.”

Howard’s subsequent study Billions for Red Tape revealed that improved permitting for the $25 billion Gateway Rail Tunnel Project under the Hudson River could save taxpayers billions and avoid significant environmental harm. The study is credited with generating a commitment by the government agencies orchestrating the project to complete all needed permitting within two years.

Howard recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee, where he called for a new simpler regulatory system for small businesses. In reporting on his testimony, Inc. magazine wrote: “Howard called the current regulatory framework a ‘powerful disincentive to entrepreneurship’… Overly complex regulations are unfair, Howard said, because compliance costs per employee are far higher for small businesses than for large ones.” He is now advising the Committee staff on pilot projects that would initiate a simpler system.

Howard’s views on these topics are shaped by his broader vision that government regulation should be radically simplified, provide a framework of principles and desired outcomes, enable officials and citizens to use common sense, and replace legal micromanagement with human responsibility and accountability. Regulation should focus on results instead of command-and-control inputs, because people, not rules, make things happen.

Renowned columnist George Will recently described Howard as “a combination of Candide and Sisyphus, his patient optimism undiminished by redundant evidence that government resists common-sensical legal and regulatory reforms of the sort he pushes up the mountain of bureaucracy.”

Howard has written widely on government reform and is the author of four books. His latest, The Rule of Nobody (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014), has been praised by Fareed Zakaria as “an utterly compelling and persuasive book that, if followed, could change the way America works.” Howard writes periodically for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Howard is a frequent guest on national television news and talk shows and has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, The News Hour, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and numerous other programs. His TED Talk has been viewed more than 600,000 times.

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