The White House has announced that Trump will name his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to run a new Office of American Innovation—described as a SWAT team of strategic consultants staffed by former business executives, designed to infuse fresh thinking into Washington and help make government work more like a business.
It’s good to have fresh thinking about how government might function more efficiently. But it’s important to remember that government is not a business. The purpose of government is not to show a profit. It is to achieve the common good.
Precisely because there are many different views about the common good, government leaders must be capable of listening and responding to many different opinions and perspectives.
They must also be public educators—telling the public the truth, explaining the consequences of different options and conducting public deliberation about what is best for society.
Above all, presidents should enrich and strengthen democracy—building trust in democratic institutions, avoiding conflicts of interests and promoting tolerance and social cohesion.
So far, Donald Trump has done the opposite. He doesn’t need more business advice. He needs more advice about how to lead a democracy.
Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations and Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.
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