In the midst of the debt crisis here in Washington, D.C., the nation teetered toward default, but eventually came to a compromise to avert that outcome. A recent article in The New Yorker likened the situation to “. . . members of an ordinance-disposal unit arguing about how to defuse a large ticking bomb.” Our nation faces a large—and growing—long-term fiscal imbalance driven by an aging population, which will dramatically increase healthcare and retirement costs.
The nation certainly faces other challenges: the continuing war on terror, increasing economic competition from emerging world powers like China and India, rising energy costs, environmental concerns, and other new and unknown problems and threats. Any one of these issues would provide a large enough agenda for a president and Congress. Their convergence creates an atmosphere of unparalleled complication for government management.
Overcoming these obstacles will require a “changed” government, a 21st-century government transformed to operate on demand.Although the outline of such a government is becoming clearer, the literature has yet to describe a real model or even its key characteristics. Transforming American Governance: Rebooting the Public Square is designed to help public management practitioners, thought leaders, theorists, and researchers ask the right questions as we enter this uncharted territory. The book, just out from M.E. Sharpe, was edited by Terry Buss, Dwight Ink, and yours truly. We have assembled a prominent cast of experts, including several from Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, to envision the future of government and governance on a broad scale.
Our experts discuss how 21st century government will affect state and local governance, and ponder the question, “Whither American Federalism?” They speculate about how government will respond, with some asserting that the answers exist in the past. And they ponder the future as a new Millennial generation enters public service, powerful social networking and collaborative technologies become more prevalent, and new models of citizen engagement change the very nature of government and government management.
These trends will dramatically affect what it is like to work in the public sector. Governments will place a premium on the skills of orchestration and facilitation. New accountability methods will match the radically dispersed and collaborative nature of public work. Governments will make their own workplaces flatter and more connected—in tune with the values and behaviors of the talented people that the public sector needs to attract.
Copies of the book are available from M.E. Sharpe, Inc., in Armonk, N.Y.