Larry Summers on government, business, education, and tech

Larry Summers is a former US Treasury Secretary and former President of Harvard University. Larry has recently started getting involved in the tech sector by taking board roles at tech companies operating in the financial sector like Lending Club and Square.

In this interview on Product Hunt, Larry shares his thoughts on a wide variety of topics relevant to government, business, education, and technology. I really liked four of the points he made.

  1. The primary role of government is to do things that companies can’t do or don’t have the incentive to do. Blanket statements that we need to do away with the government and have Bitcoin replace the Federal Reserve, and for profit schools replace public schools are therefore not well grounded.
  2. Society should be based on the authority of ideas rather than the idea of authority.
  3. Online education’s unique value proposition is that it can reach a lotĀ of students while also delivering a high level of personalization. Traditionally, scale and personalization have been in opposition. However, with technology, we can now achieve both.
  4. The big difference between a government role and a private sector role is that in government roles you don’t get to choose the problems you work on whereas in private sector roles you largely do. When criticizing government officials, the private sector needs to keep in mind that these officials have to confront the problems that they’re faced with even though they may have no role in the creation of the problem. Although this also occurs in business, it occurs much more frequently in government.

You can listen to the full interview below.