The term “demosclerosis” (democracy + sclerosis) was coined by Jonathan Rauch in his article “Demosclerosis” in the September 5, 1992 National Journal, followed by his book, Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government (1994). The term might have been influenced by the earlier economic term “Eurosclerosis” (Europe + sclerosis).
According to a WorldCat summary of Rauch’s book:
“It is no secret that the American people are dissatisfied with government. But while the frustration and anger are real, the way we tend to view the problem is all wrong. In this powerful diagnosis, Jonathan Rauch reveals that the problem with government is not “gridlock” or “special interests”; it’s that despite ever-increasing levels of activity, government has lost its ability to make things work and solve problems effectively. That’s “demosclerosis.” Rauch looks beyond the politics and personalities of the moment, taking the reader on a fascinating tour of how American government has been crippled by its own success. He shows how, year after year, the American public forms more interest groups making more demands on government - until gradually government itself has calcified.”
Rauch gave credit to University of Maryland economist Moncur Olson’s book The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation and Social Rigidities (1982), where the term “institutional sclerosis” is used.
Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
scle·ro·sis noun \sklə-ˈrō-səs\
Definition of SCLEROSIS
1: pathological hardening of tissue especially from overgrowth of fibrous tissue or increase in interstitial tissue; also : a disease characterized by sclerosis
2: an inability or reluctance to adapt or compromise “political sclerosis”
Eurosclerosis (German: Eurosklerose) is a term coined in the 1970s and the early 1980s to describe both a political period and an economic pattern in Europe, alluding to the medical term sclerosis. Economically, it was used to describe countries which had high unemployment and slow job creation in spite of overall economic growth, in contrast to what the United States experienced in the same period when economic expansion was accompanied by high job growth. In its political context, the term “eurosclerosis” was used to describe a period with a perceived stagnation of European integration. The slow pace of enlargement, a perceived lack of democracy and economic problems caused that negative and apathetic attitudes to the European Economic Community (EEC) were high. Wilfried Martens, Prime Minister of Belgium from 1981 to 1992, states in his 2008 memoirs that the period of “eurosclerosis” was brought to an end by the 1986 Single European Act which re-launched the drive to integration by framing the single market of the EEC.
As an economic term, “eurosclerosis” has later been used more broadly to refer to overall economic stagnation.
Wikipedia: Jonathan Rauch
Jonathan Charles Rauch (born April 26, 1960, Phoenix, Arizona) is an American author, journalist and activist. After graduating from Yale University, Rauch worked at the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina, for the National Journal magazine, and later for The Economist magazine and as a freelance writer.
Currently a senior writer and columnist for the National Journal, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, a writer-in-residence at the Brookings Institution, and a vice president of the Independent Gay Forum, Rauch is also the author of five books.
The Rise and Decline of Nations:
Economic Growth, Stagflation and Social Rigidities
By Mancur Olson
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
In short, with age British society has acquired so many strong organizations and collusions that it suffers from an institutional sclerosis that slows its adaptation to changing circumstances and technologies.
5 September 1992, National Journal, “Demosclerosis” by Jonathan Rauch, pp. 1998-2003.
8 September 1992, Washington (DC) Post, “Hardening Of Federal Arteries” by Charles Trueheart, pg. B7:
It’s called, also catchingly, “Demosclerosis,” and it’s no more optimistic than the one before. Rauch uses the term to describe the current paralysis of the federal government; by his reading, Washington is the prisoner of its past policies, ...
23 September 1992, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, “Ailing America clogged by ‘demosclerosis’” by David Broder, sec. 1, pg. 12, col. 3:
In the Sept 5 issue of National Journal, staff writer Jonathan Rauch has a provocative essay on what he calls “demosclerosis,” which he defines as “postwar democratic government’s progressive loss of the ability to adapt.” He credits the underlying thesis to University of Maryland economist Moncur Olson’s 10-year-old volume, “The Rise and Decline of Nations.”
Boiled down, the Olson-Rauch argument is this:
Stable societies, like the United States and Great Britain, which are spared the trauma of military defeat or social upheaval, almost inevitably tend to become barnacled with interest groups. The goal of these groups is not to increase national wealth but to claim a larger share of the pie for themselves and their members. As they assert their claims, they impede the society’s ability to make needed policy changes and economic shifts, so growth slows and government becomes ever less responsive.
13 December 1992, Washington (DC) Post, “The Interest-Free Solution: How to Stop Special Interests From Choking Economic Growth” by Mancur Olson, pg. C3:
The result is what Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal has called “demosclerosis” - the hardening of the arteries of the body politic.
National Journal reporter Jonathan Rauch coined the term “demosclerosis” to describe the alleged inability of large democracies to adapt to social changes.
OCLC WorldCat record
Demosclerosis : the silent killer of American government
Author: Jonathan Rauch
Publisher: New York : Times Books, ©1994.
Edition/Format: Book : English : 1st ed
Summary: It is no secret that the American people are dissatisfied with government. But while the frustration and anger are real, the way we tend to view the problem is all wrong. In this powerful diagnosis, Jonathan Rauch reveals that the problem with government is not “gridlock” or “special interests”; it’s that despite ever-increasing levels of activity, government has lost its ability to make things work and solve problems effectively. That’s “demosclerosis.” Rauch looks beyond the politics and personalities of the moment, taking the reader on a fascinating tour of how American government has been crippled by its own success. He shows how, year after year, the American public forms more interest groups making more demands on government - until gradually government itself has calcified. No program can be cut, no tax break eliminated, without incurring the wrath of one group or another, and they care more about saving a program than the general public cares about killing it. The truly insidious thing, Rauch shows, is that these groups and associations are not the wicked “special interests” of politicians’ rhetoric; seven out of ten Americans belong to at least one association and one in four belongs to four or more. We have met the special interests, and they are us. Escaping from the trap Rauch describes will not be easy. His keen assessment of Bill Clinton’s first year in office shows that just changing the faces in Washington is no cure, nor is it sufficient just to pass new laws or cut taxes, for these actions generate their own interest groups, calcifying government even further. Rauch offers his own bracing tonic for unclogging the public arteries, turning our conventional ideas of liberalism and conservatism on their heads and making Demosclerosis an indispensable guide to how Washington really works - or doesn’t.
New York (NY) Times
The Paralysis of the State
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: October 12, 2010
Sometimes a local issue perfectly illuminates a larger national problem. Such is the case with the opposition of the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, to construction of a new tunnel between his state and New York.
The answer is what Jonathan Rauch of the National Journal once called demosclerosis. Over the past few decades, governments have become entwined in a series of arrangements that drain money from productive uses and direct it toward unproductive ones.
Posted on November 6, 2011 by Steven Hayward
Pipelines, Trees, and Demosclerosis
In the old days, when the U.S. built things relatively quickly like Hoover Dam or the Golden Gate Bridge, someone actually got to make decisions. Today, I suspect the slightly authoritarian figures like Robert Moses or Frederick Law Olmstead would be arrested for their manner of public administration, or have their designs so slowed down and corrupted by “public input” and review processes that we wouldn’t have Central Park.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Wednesday, November 09, 2011 • Permalink