Reconnecting politics to our best values is now the most important task of political life
Forget the discussion of tax cuts or no tax cuts, the diplomatic chitchat revealed in wikileaks, even the finger pointing over exploding deficits and rising debt or the foodfight between political parties as to who got us into this mess. All are symptoms of a more profound illness. The root cause of most of our troubles lies in the fact that our organizations have become unproductive.
As a result of unproductive organizations, the private sector is no longer able to provide a decent living to all our citizens. The public sector no longer has the resources to subsidize them and fill the gap. Our education system no longer provides an education that fits our children for the future. Our health system, quite apart from Obama’s health reform, is heading our country towards bankruptcy. Our budgets are swollen by spending on defense systems that even the Secretary of Defense says we do not need and will never be built or used.
Meanwhile our political parties, instead of trying to understand and redress the deep crisis in which we find ourselves, are engaged in zero sum games of seeking a larger slice of a declining pie. Even the Wall Street Journal publishes articles about the end of American optimism.
This country, once so rich, has become poor in one of the things that matters most: institutions that function and that serve our citizenry well.
As Umair Haque has written, “we're poor in the single way that counts the most: In terms of institutional capital, we're bankrupt. It is institutions that allocate and create mere financial capital — and without better ones, we're learning, prosperity must implode.”[i]
Our institutions are sick, not because our managers have forgotten how to manage, but because the world has changed and our way of running organizations hasn’t.
The irony is that we know how to run our institutions differently. We need the wisdom to see that something is fundamentally amiss and the courage to plunge into a different and more productive future.