I’d tagged this article and want to just toss it up while I work on a longer piece on the points it makes.
David Brooks at the NYT, writing ‘Thoroughly Modern Do-Gooders‘:
Earlier generations of benefactors thought that social service should be like sainthood or socialism. But this one thinks it should be like venture capital.
These thoroughly modern do-gooders dress like venture capitalists. They talk like them. They even think like them. That means that aside from the occasional passion for heirloom vegetables, they are not particularly crunchy. They don’t wear ponytails, tattoos or Birkenstocks. They don’t devote any energy to countercultural personal style, unless you consider excessive niceness a subversive fashion statement.
Next to them, Barack Obama looks like Abbie Hoffman.
It also means that they are not that interested in working for big, sluggish bureaucracies. They are not hostile to the alphabet-soup agencies that grew out of the New Deal and the Great Society; they just aren’t inspired by them.
He’s talking about something that resonates with me pretty closely:
The older do-gooders had a certain policy model: government identifies a problem. Really smart people design a program. A cabinet department in a big building administers it.
But the new do-gooders have absorbed the disappointments of the past decades. They have a much more decentralized worldview. They don’t believe government on its own can be innovative. A thousand different private groups have to try new things. Then we measure to see what works.
Sounds good to me…