Subject Area



Ronald Reagan’s ideological basis in neoliberalism and the difficulties with cutting out programs to which the citizenry had grown accustomed prompted him to change the narrative on government expenditures, focusing on the rooting out of wasteful and inefficient government agencies and programs as a means by which to lower taxes. In doing so, Reagan created a private sector survey for cost control that placed the responsibility of identifying such waste and inefficiencies under the purview of J. Peter Grace and the private sector—a group of corporate businessmen who shared Reagan’s deregulatory ideology yet were accountable to their own shareholders rather than to the American public. This inherent discrepancy in stakeholders proved dangerous when J. Peter Grace used his position in government to advance his personal agenda and that of W.R. Grace & Co.’s shareholders at the expense of U.S. citizens who expected consumer and environmental protection from the EPA.

J. Peter Grace and the Grace Commission, thus, offer a unique and compelling case study of the societal dangers that arise when experimenting with running the government like a business. Chapter 1 delves into J. Peter Grace’s past as an environmentally reckless businessman at W.R. Grace & Co. whose government work followed the economic interests of his corporation. Chapter 2 engages with Reagan’s executive order that created the Grace Commission, contextualizing this private sector survey to identify government waste and inefficiency amidst other public administration efforts, and identifying the significance of private sector involvement in government. Chapter 3 investigates the conflicts of interest surrounding the EPA task force and the deregulatory recommendations they offered, exemplifying the challenges of bringing private sector expertise into the public sphere without simultaneously empowering corporate interests over the public interest. Ultimately, this case study of Reagan’s deregulatory commission led by J. Peter Grace interrogates neoliberalism’s marketization of public life and questions the extent to which a corporate-conceived model of government efficiency can be achieved without bastardizing the public good.


Providence College

Academic Year



Spring 2021