2020 severely tested the governing abilities of our leaders. America faced a once-in-a-century pandemic, a collapsed economy, civil unrest, shuttered schools, toxic politics, and more. Despite months of opportunities to solve these problems, the U.S. has now surpassed 200,000 Covid deaths, millions remain unemployed, several cities continue to face turmoil, thousands of schools remain closed, and the political climate remains radioactive. Why have we fared so poorly?
Good governance requires the capacity to appreciate competing claims, understand trade-offs, and demonstrate prudence. Sound public decision-making requires not only technical ability or scientific knowledge, but “practical wisdom,” which develops only with repeated engagement in a particular task, along with its various causes, contours, and implications. It can produce shrewd, robust decisions even in the most challenging circumstances. Perhaps one explanation for our governing failures in 2020 is the paucity of practical wisdom in statecraft—and perhaps the key to a better 2021 is more of it.
On October 16, join the Manhattan Institute for a discussion on practical wisdom and its role in governing today, with philosophy professor Jennifer Frey, science policy director Tony Mills, and education specialist Jocelyn Pickford.
Recent Work from the Federal Affairs Team