The Wisdom of George Shultz


Former Stanford Review Editor-in-Chief Daniel Slate has a new piece entitled, “The Reality of Ideas” looking back on George Shultz’s talk in Memorial Church several weeks ago about how to lead a good life. Shultz – the economist, Secretary of the Treasury under Eisenhower, Secretary of Labor under Nixon and, most famously, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan – spoke about the need to  combine both ideas and practice: a message that neatly sums up much of his approach to policy.

He summarized this theme in the context of his effort to end nuclear weapons:

“By combining realism with idealism, we can find a way, through practical steps, from what is — a world with a risk of increasing global disaster — to a world that ought to be — a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons.”

Shultz’s career has long been defined by the ability to combine the ideal with the practical. He is a man emersed in ideas (he is, after all, an academic), but he is also a pragmatist, a policy wonk that strives to make policy work.

It is interesting that Daniel fails to note Shutltz’s repudiation of the Bush Administration’s use of “enhance interrogation.” Shultz, though certainly no opponent of hawkish foreign policy, compared Bush’s excessively harsh treatment of terrorists to FDR’s use of internment camps during World War II.


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