Contra “We Know Best”

Robert McFadden

“We find when we bring average Americans together that they listen to one another, that they can contribute and that they can build, develop a vision of what they want our society to be like. And it’s really inspiring.”

In a speech at the Drucker Institute in Claremont, Calif., in late 2008, Mr. Yankelovich enumerated overwhelming national problems — the financial meltdown, the soaring debt, lost standing in the world, runaway health and education costs — and, typically, offered his vision of a way out of the mess. He called it “The New Pragmatism,” and insisted that it would soon spread across America.

“It’s going to occur,” he said, certitude rising in his New England accent, “through entrepreneurship and innovative thinking at all levels of society: individual, commercial, public, nonprofit, private, institutional, and all of these in interlocking, interacting ways.”