My latest post for U.S. News & World Report, “No Shortage of Radicals” addresses the subject at the heart of my course at the University of Chicago (and the theme of the occasional series I write for The Atlantic): “The Future of Government”. This usually elicits a quip about it being a very short course.
Short or not, I’ve been thinking about this for a very long time – since I was asked in college (while writing for The Washington Monthly) to review a pre-publication copy of a new book by a little-known, back-bencher congressman named Newt Gingrich: I realized that Gingrich was right about the coming, technology-induced fall of the 20th Century welfare state. But I was perturbed by his vision of a 21st Century in which, as Anatole France once put it, everyone, rich and poor alike, would be equally free to sleep under a bridge – now, with a laptop. When Gingrich ultimately masterminded the more-or-less-permanent conservative takeover of Congress in 1994 (and cost me my own job as chief-of-staff), I realized it was probably the last time I’d ever serve in government again – and that government itself was changing forever.
Those changes – the impetus for founding Public Works, a consulting firm conducting high-level government policy design from outside government, and for the “Future of Government” course and series – are coming faster and faster these days. As I often tell my students, the class was designed three years ago to think about what government would look like 30 years from now – but every year I have to update it as events keep overtaking my timeline.
Sunday night, President Obama spoke to the nation to attempt to dampen rising fears about Islamic terrorism. I agree that the hysterical reaction is overstated (although, as I wrote a few weeks ago, we need to realize that there will be increasing levels of terrorism for quite some time) – but the diagnosis is way too narrow. The world is undergoing globe-wide changes that will generate stresses – and violence – in cultures and societies far beyond Islam and the Arab world. In fact, it is already doing so. The adjustments will be far-reaching and a long time coming. Among them will be dramatic changes in how we govern ourselves, how power is wielded, distributed and channeled, and how – perhaps even if – we live together successfully. This article is one of several I’ve been writing lately trying to grapple with these coming changes.
To read the full piece on “No Shortage of Radicals” in U.S News & World Report, click here.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.