The search for a “third way” somewhere between socialism and capitalism is to the modern era what the search for the philosopher’s stone was to the Dark Ages. Although the implosion of the Soviet Union has put a damper on calls for more bureaucracy, most people harbor various misconceptions and fallacies that make them equally distrustful of fully free markets. So, yet another pair of would-be alchemists has set out in search of that elusive goal big-government order without the big government.
In Reinventing Government, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler attempt to chart a course between big government and laissez faire. They want nothing to do with “ideology.” Rather, Osborne and Gaebler are technocrats in search of pragmatic answers. “Reinventing Government,” they write, “addresses how governments work, not what governments do.” Thus, from the standpoint of what governments do, the book is a proverbial grab bag of policy prescriptions some good, some bad.
In the course of the book’s eleven chapters, Osborne and Gaebler lay the foundations for what they call “entrepreneurial government.” That is, government that is active, but bereft of bureaucracy and its attendant red tape and inefficiency. In Osborne and Gaebler’s paradigm, the problems that America presently faces are all a result of the reforms of the Progressive Era. The large bureaucracies set up to discourage corruption and abuses of power actually waste more resources through regulations and procedures than they save. To stop a small number of crooks, bureaucracy must tie the hands of honest employees.
Osborne and Gaebler outline a series of sweeping reforms, all aimed at changing the entire focus of government. The old way of thinking envisions a government that identifies problems and then introduces an agency or program to solve the problem. The result has been a plethora of large bureaucracies and programs targeted at specific problems but achieving no real success. Entrepreneurial government...