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Robert D. Hormats is the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs. He was formerly vice chairman of Goldman Sachs (International) and managing director of Goldman,[…]

Hormats discusses channeling capital into productive companies and teaching people to embrace change.

Question: What impact does your work have on the world? 

Robert Hormats: My work has an impact on the world, I think, in several areas. One, it does help to channel capital, channel funds to productive companies who have good ideas and want to invest in those ideas. For instance companies that want to produce new sources of energy, new types of energy, alternative energy. Companies that want to put money into new types of medicine, new cures for diseases.

It benefits companies and countries that want to play a greater role in the global economy. For instance, companies abroad that feel that with additional amounts of capital they can be more productive. They can create more jobs. They can be more dynamic players in the global economy, and that’s one part of it.

The second; one of the roles that I try to play is to help people to understand the forces that are at work in the U.S. economy and the global economy. It’s not simply sufficient to try to work with individual groups or individual companies, but it’s also important to have a very robust public dialogue about the profound changes that are taking place in the world economy.

The world economy today is so different from what it was 10 or 15 years ago. The world financial system is so different. And unless we better understand it, we will fear it. Or we will simply not be able to rise to the challenges that we need to address in the global financial and economic system. So I try to do that as well.

And third, I try to play a role in the public policy debate in Washington [D.C.] and elsewhere about how we can address these issues; how we deal with problems, for instance, for giving people more opportunity to succeed in the global economy; how to deal with problems of, say, homelessness in this city and in the country where you have people who could be very potentially productive citizens, but don’t have the opportunity because they don’t have a home. They don’t have an education. They don’t have proper healthcare.

And also to try to make the point fairly regularly as I try to do on television, that this country can’t shy away from or isolate itself from global change. It has to accept the reality of global change, but it has to do more to enable its citizens to thrive in this new economy, rather than simply resent it or try to cordon ourselves off--because you can’t stop change.

You have to rise to the change itself and be competitive. And that means training. It means education. It means good healthcare so people are healthy when they go to work and healthy when they retire so they’re more productive parts of the system; not just drain their work lines, but afterwards they’re still able to contribute and feel good about themselves. Even when they’re 70 or 80 they can play a productive role in our society.


Recorded On: July 25, 2007