What does effective government look like during a pandemic?

In Harper Lecture, Prof. William Howell discusses presidential responsibility and COVID-19

For University of Chicago political scientist William Howell, confronting a pandemic requires the ability to adapt, learn and coordinate. The problem is, these are also the “exact qualities that run in short supply in a system of separated powers.”

“Tomorrow, there will be additional pandemics, concerns about climate change, rising inequality, immigration, massive debt and an incoherent tax code,” said Howell, a leading scholar of the American presidency. “We need to find responsible ways of leveraging presidential leadership in the service of more effective government.”

Howell delivered those remarks as part of a virtual Harper Lecture on May 11 entitled “The American Presidency in a Time of COVID,” exploring the nature of political leadership—and presidential responsibility—during the coronavirus pandemic. The event was moderated by Sadia Sindhu, executive director of the Center for Effective Government at UChicago.

The Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics at the Harris School of Public Policy, Howell chairs the Department of Political Science, teaches in the College, and directs the Center for Effective Government. He has written widely on separation of powers and American political institutions and is the author of numerous books, including the forthcoming Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy (2020, with Terry M. Moe).

Now continuing virtually, the Harper Lectures host University experts for stimulating conversations on critical topics. Future events will feature Prof. Nicholas Epley of the Booth School of Business on May 26 (“Designing a Good Life”) and Divinity School Dean David Nirenberg on June 8 (“Plagues and Faiths, Past and Present”).