Why don’t more Americans go into public service? This is a most important question, because the public sector is being crippled by mediocre, sometimes poor, and, infrequently, but too often, corrupt leadership. When I was young, my parents strongly encouraged me to consider either a career in public service or taking on periodic assignments in public service. I do not want to romanticize government officials in the past, because many of the pathologies we see today have been around for centuries and even millennia.
Nevertheless, I grew up reading about historical figures like the Roman leader Cincinnatus who left his farm to serve in a leadership position, fulfilled his public responsibilities, and then returned as quickly as possible to his farm and his family. George Washington was admired because he completed his two presidential terms, and then went back to his Virginia home. Both of these leaders represented a set of values which placed public service above personal ambition.