Robert E. Rubin, co-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. Treasury secretary, called restoring effective government the “fundamental challenge of the future” for the U.S.
Rubin, who gave the Terry College of Business’ Mason Public Leadership Lecture April 22, said the loss of the American public’s faith in government could be devastating to the long-term success of the U.S. economy.
He called on students at UGA to be part of an informed and actively engaged electorate demanding more effective government.
Rubin served as Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton from 1995-1999. He also is a former co-senior partner and co-chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., co-founder of the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution and author of The New York Times best-seller In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington.
With an impressive résumé as a leader at the highest levels of public and private institutions, Rubin said a strong, market-based economy and a strong government with effective policy are both necessary ingredients for America’s success.
“There is a view, as you know, that markets and governments are antithetical,” Rubin said. “I think just the opposite. I think they complement each other.”
More effective government could lead to stronger economic success, he said. However, the current partisan gridlock is leading to government dysfunction and lost confidence in government by the American public.
This dysfunction has been building for decades, Rubin said, and there are various reasons political leaders have grown so divided, including loss of civility among members of Congress, gerrymandered districts and the rise of social media as a conduit for partisanship. All of this has eroded away bipartisanship and led to a system in which the two political parties agree on little.
“Without principled compromise, our political system cannot work,” Rubin said.
The Mason Public Leadership Lecture is part of the Terry Leadership Speaker Series.