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Chapter Summary

Osborne, David, and Ted Gaebler. 1992. Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit Is Transforming the Public Sector. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Chapter 1: Catalytic Government: Steering Rather Than Rowing

Drawing from the last main point of the introduction, Osborne and Gaebler explore the issue of what kind of government we need. They argue that different sectors of the economy (public, private, and nonprofit) should provide the goods and services that each system produces best separately or as a collective effort. Because it is broad in scope and capacity and run democratically, government is best at providing policy, social equity, direction to the economy, and preventing discrimination. Due to the flexibility of the market and to the forces of competition, the private sector is best at providing quality goods and services and choices to consumer. The nonprofit, "voluntary," or "third" sector is best at providing human services and goods that do not yield a profit due to the generally small scale and local focus of nonprofit organizations. In other words, "steering," or providing guidance and direction, is what government does best, whereas "rowing," or producing goods and services, is best provided by the private or nonprofit sectors. Osborne and Gaebler give numerous examples of these three sectors working together in innovative ways to provide more to citizens at lower expense.