Washington Unstuck


Peter Drucker believed that a healthy society requires effective and responsible management across all three sectors—business, nonprofit and government. In fact, he wrote, “we need government as the central institution in the society of organizations”—one that expresses the “common will and the common vision” we all share, no matter our politics. With this in mind, Drucker surely would have been disheartened by the federal shutdown that paralyzed Washington for more than two weeks. And so, during the course of the stalemate, the Dx featured a daily thought from Drucker on the proper role and practices of government:

Shutdown Ends (October 17) 

“An institution must be able to make useful the good and to neutralize or deflect the bad qualities in its members . . . and to organize a systematic and dependable supply of reliable leaders.”

Day 16 (October 16)

“I do not know whether Americans are particularly inept at public administration—though they are hardly particularly gifted for it.”

Day 15 (October 15)

“Executives are not their own masters. They are servants of the organization—whether elected or appointed, whether the organization is a government, a government agency, a business, a hospital, a diocese. It’s their duty to subordinate their likes, wishes, preferences to the welfare of the institution.”

Day 14 (October 14)

“What was a torrid romance between the people and government for so very long has now become a tired, middle-aged liaison that we do not quite know how to break off but that only becomes exacerbated by being dragged out.”

Day 13 (October 13)

“The greatest factor in the disenchantment with government is that government has not performed.”

Day 12 (October 12)

“The purpose of government is to make fundamental decisions, and to make them effectively. . . . The purpose of government, in other words, is to govern.”

Day 11 (October 11)

“Government in all developed countries has grown much too fast since World War II and, as a result, has become less effective rather than more effective. But the goal is not a weak government. It must be a strong and effective government. New political tasks are waiting for us that will require more government effectiveness, greater government vision and stronger government leadership.”

Day 10 (October 10)

“By now it has become clear that a developed country can neither extend big government, as the (so-called) liberals want, nor abolish it and go back to 19th century innocence, as the (so-called) conservatives want. The government we need will have to transcend both groups.”