Political Science

Second Major



Ley, Aaron, J.

Advisor Department

Political Science




LEAN government; administrative reform, Rhode Island, public administration


Government has both tremendous power and responsibility in modern American society. Throughout history, the role of government has shifted with the emergence of new programs and policies. Beginning in the late 1800’s, the role of government expanded with the mass production of railroads and rapid economic development. With this expansion of government, scholars such as Woodrow Wilson turned their attention to the performance of our national bureaucracy, arguing that administration of public policies could be more successful if reforms were instituted. The trend of administrative expansion accelerated into the 20th Century while conducting two major wars and in responding to the Great Depression. The expansion of the administrative state meant that scholars, policymakers, and citizens now had to respond to a more powerful national government that was expensive to maintain. Conservatives adopted a narrative, most successfully advanced by the Reagan Administration, that American government had grown too large and inefficient, causing confidence in the federal government to diminish among American citizens. This lack of confidence still poses significant challenges to policymakers who seek to use government in more positive ways. Recognizing that Republicans were capitalizing politically on the American electorate’s lack of confidence in the federal government, Bill Clinton, a “New Democrat,” responded by adopting many of the administrative reform proposals that were part of the “reinventing government” movement. This movement ultimately influenced a practice known as the LEAN government initiative. In 2015, Governor Gina Raimondo (D-RI) issued an executive order adopting LEAN across Rhode Island state government. This paper provides an overview of administrative reforms and the reinventing government movement as precursors to the current LEAN government initiatives. From here I will answer: What explains the translation of these past policies into adoption of LEAN in Rhode Island? I hypothesize that this could be explained through theories of policy diffusion. Not only do I discover what led to LEAN in Rhode Island, but I demonstrate how LEAN may affect Rhode Island politics and public policymaking in the future.