Andreas Vårheim et al. | Do Libraries Matter? Public Libraries and the Creation of Social Capital

Librarians and the library profession keep repeating that libraries contribute greatly to generating social capital by “building community”. However, little evidence of this has been presented. This paper aims to be a first step towards correcting this situation by asking whether public libraries matter in the creation of generalized trust.

This study used quantitative data in analyzing macro-level data on whether public library expenditure could explain social trust patterns in the OECD countries. Additionally, a few qualitative interviews with public library leaders in the USA and Norway were used to indicate by what mechanisms, or by which processes, libraries generate generalized trust.

Matthew J. Hirschland et al. | Correcting the Record: The Real Story Behind Federal Intervention and Failure in Securing Contemporary US Educational Reform

We show here that contrary to popular rhetoric, from an early stage the American federal government demonstrated remarkable influence over not only the political and economic landscape of the developing nation but also over education as well.  This occurred in spite of the fact that the institutions in support of such action were fragmented and poorly organized to accomplish national educational goals.  In this light, our focus is upon how these 19th century developments set the tone for the system of education inherited today – one which heralded the widespread provision of education, but also a greatly diminished federal role that frustrates current policy innovations in terms of US education reform. 

Sven Steinmo and Jon Watts| It's the Institutions, Stupid! Why Comprehensive National Health Insurance Always Fails in America

We argue that the United States does not have comprehensive national health insurance (NHI) because American political institutions are biased against this type of reform. The original design of a fragmented and federated national political system serving an increasingly large and diverse polity has been further fragmented by a series of political reforms beginning with the Progressive era and culminating with the congressional reforms of the mid- 1970s. This institutional structure yields enormous power to intransigent interest groups and thus makes efforts by progressive reformers such as President Clinton (and previous reform-minded presidents before him) to mount a successful NHI campaign impossible. We show how this institutional structure has shaped political strategies and political outcomes related to NHI since

Franklin D. Roosevelt. Finally, we argue that this institutional structure contributes to the antigovernment attitudes so often observed among Americans.