Nicholas R. Parrillo

Against the Profit Motive

The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780-1940

Yale University Press 2013

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In this podcast I discuss Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780-1940 (Yale University Press, 2013) with author Nicholas R. Parrillo, professor...

In this podcast I discuss Profit Motive: The Salary Revolution in American Government, 1780-1940 (Yale University Press, 2013) with author Nicholas R. Parrillo, professor of law at Yale University. Parrillo’s book was winner of the 2014 Law and Society Association James Willard Hurst Book Prize and the 2014 Annual Scholarship Award from the American Bar Association’s Section on Administrative Law. Per the book jacket, “in America today, a public official’s lawful income consists of a salary. But until a century ago, the law frequently provided for officials to make money on a profit-seeking basis. Prosecutors won a fee for each defendant convicted. Tax collectors received a percentage of each evasion uncovered. Naval officers took a reward for each ship sunk. Numerous other officers were likewise paid for ‘performance.’ This book is the first to document the American government’s for-profit past, to discover how profit-seeking defined officialdom’srelationship to the citizenry, and to explain how lawmakers–by ultimately banishing the profit motive in favor of the salary–transformed that relationship forever.” Parrillo’s intricate analysis adds nuance to the American story of government compensation and explains why government officials made money in ways that today would be deemed necessarily corrupt. Some of the topics we cover are: –The ways American lawmakers made the absence of a profit motive a defining feature of government –The two non-salary forms of payment for government officials that initially predominated in the US –How these two forms of payment tended to give rise to very different social relationships between officials and the people with whom they dealt –Why the flight to salaries was an admission of law’s weakness and failure

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