Law professor’s new book challenges government, market roles in American history

Dean Emeritus Joseph Tomain and co-author Professor Sidney Shapiro tell the story of American history through the lens of the growth of government and markets.

How Government Built America challenges growing anti-government rhetoric by highlighting the role government has played in partnering with markets to build the United States.  Co-authored by Dean Emeritus Joseph Tomain, University of Cincinnati College of Law, and Professor Sidney Shapiro, Wake Forest University School of Law, How Government Built America explores how markets can harm and fail the country and how the government has addressed these extremes by restoring essential values to benefit all citizens.  

Using the lens of two mythical Americas, Tomain and Shapiro show that though the concepts of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency are built into the DNA of the country—as exemplified by popular movies like “The Lone Ranger”—the notion of democracy and people pursuing communal interests—illustrated by the 1939 classic movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”—are equally important.  “Neither vision of America is wrong, but both are incomplete.” state Tomain and Shapiro in their book. “History demonstrates it has taken both to fulfill America’s fundamental aspirations.”

In How Government Built America, the authors turn the spotlight on government because its role in building the country is often overlooked and misunderstood. Starting with the colonies and continuing through the first two years of the Biden Administration, each chapter in the book looks at the additions to government that occurred at the time, how the changes promoted the nation’s fundamental values, and how the politics of the time promoted or preserved needed additions to government.

More than just a history lesson, How Government Built America tries to answer the question “what mix of government and markets best serve the country?” Secondarily, how do we know when the mix is a good one?  “The country has changed the mix of government when it has been out of sync with … (our) values. Government has been necessary to realign the nation with its values because markets and government have different ends.”

 “Quite simply, and perhaps the most significant message of this history of government,” write Tomain and Shapiro, “is that a healthy mix of government and markets is one in which the values of liberty, equality, fairness, and the common good are recognized and honored.”

“Understanding the government’s role in achieving the nation’s fundamental political values provides a roadmap for appreciating why the country has expanded its government sometimes in bunches and sometimes in smaller batches. History has shown that the country has always relied on a mix of government and markets to expand liberty and pursue equality, fairness, and the common good.

“These fundamental values…have always defined the nation and bound us together, even as we have disagreed on how best to achieve them.”

How Government Bult America is available for purchase from Cambridge University Press, Amazon (paperback and Kindle) and other retailers.  

About Joseph Tomain, University of Cincinnati College of Law

Joseph P. Tomain is Dean Emeritus and the Wilbert and Helen Ziegler Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. A highly respected professor and scholar, his teaching and research interests are focused in the areas of contracts, energy law, land use, and regulatory policy. Dean Tomain’s previously published books include Achieving Democracy: The Future of Progressive Regulation (2014), Creon’s Ghost: Law, Justice and the Humanities (2009), and numerous books covering the field of energy law.  In addition to his teaching and scholarship, Dean Tomain has held positions as Visiting Fellow, Oxford University; Fulbright Fellow, Cambodia; NEH Fellow, Stanford University; and Visiting Professor at numerous law schools across the country. In 1994, he was an election observer for the first democratic election in South Africa.

About Sidney Shapiro, Wake Forest University School of Law

Sidney A. Shapiro holds the Frank U. Fletcher Chair in Administrative Law at the Wake Forest University School of Law. One of the country’s leading experts in administrative procedure and regulatory policy, his interests and legal scholarship are focused on the areas of administrative law, environmental law and justice, federal courts, and legislation and regulation. Professor Shapiro is the author or co-author of numerous books in these areas, including Administrative Competence: Reimagining Administrative Law (2020) and Achieving Democracy: The Future of Progressive Regulation (2014) in addition to over 50 articles about government. Professor Shapiro serves as the Vice-President of the Center for Progressive Reform, a nonprofit research and educational organization of university-affiliated academics. Previously, he was a distinguished visitor at Oxford University, University of Padua, and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), University of Indiana, Bloomington.

Top featured image is courtesy of Istock.

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