Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Paul Volker Identifies the Problem behind the Mess

The latest issue of The New York Review of Books has an article entitled "What the New President Should Consider." The text comes from a lecture that Paul Volker gave at Cooper Union long before election day, and he submitted the excerpted version before the Election Day results had been finalized. Hence, the title was kept generic.

One particular remark struck me as particularly perceptive:
To my mind, our universities with prestigious schools of “Public Affairs” and “Public Policy” have concentrated far too much on high-level policy debates—i.e., what should be done—and far too little on what in practice can be done. Grand policy and great strategy can’t count for much without the resources and skills needed for implementation and management.
What Volker may have failed to recognize is that this precept cuts to the heart of why our country is so fed up with its government and the inability of that government to get anything done. The ideological gulf that has divided both the country and the Congress has progress to a point where we are now governed (sic) by representatives whose only "resources and skills" lie in promoting and defending ideological positions, rather than in the nuts and bolts of "implementation and management." Of course all of them are there because they were elected, meaning that the electorate is similarly obsessed with ideology, rather than with getting things done.

Volker offers some sage advice on how our representatives should set aside their differences and focus on shared values and goals, but he overlooks the role that divisiveness played in their becoming representatives in the first place.

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