Since the 1990s and Bill Clinton’s embrace of key parts of Ronald Reagan’s legacy, mainstream US governance has been guided by a bipartisan consensus around a formula of shrinking the federal government’s responsibilities and deregulating the economy. Hailed as the ultimate solution to the age-old problem of governing well, the formula was exported to the developing world as the Washington Consensus. Yet growing political polarization weakened the consensus, and in a series of three major crises over the past two decades—9/11, the global financial crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic—US policymakers opted for pragmatism rather than adherence to the old formula, which appears increasingly inadequate to cope with current governance challenges.

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