By now we know that government cannot take care of community problems. We know that business and the free market also cannot take care of community problems. We have now come to accept that there has to be a third sector, the social sector of (mostly nonprofit) community organizations. But we also know that all institutions, no matter what their legal status, have to be run autonomously and have to be focused on their own tasks and their own mission. We know, in other words, that it is almost irrelevant whether a university is private or is tax supported and owned by the state of California. However funded, it functions like other universities. We know that it makes little difference whether a hospital is a nonprofit institution or owned by a profit-making corporation. It has to be run the same way, that is, as a hospital. And the reality in which every modern society lives is therefore one of rapidly increasing pluralism, in which institutions of all kinds, sizes, values, missions, and structures constitute society. But we also know that this means that no one is taking care of the community.
There is one simple reason why the last 150 years have been years in which one institution after the other has become autonomous: the task-centered and autonomous institution is the only one that performs. Performance requires clear focus and narrow concentration. Multipurpose institutions do not perform. The achievements of the last 150 years in every single area are achievements of narrow focus, narrow concentration, and parochial self-centered values. All performing institutions of modern society are specialized. All of them are concerned only with their own task.
How to balance the two, the common good and the special purpose of the institution, is the question we must answer. If we cannot accomplish this integration, the new pluralism will surely destroy itself, the way the old pluralism did five hundred years ago. It will destroy itself because it will destroy community. But if at the same time institutions abandon their single purpose or even allow that purpose to weaken, the new pluralism will destroy itself through lack of performance.