Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Less than 1 in 10 Obama cabinet members come from the private sector

Not sure if I agree with the headline of this piece (FDR was, after all, King of the Statists), but the statistic is interesting. A telling graphic:


Evan said...

Interestingly, the poster says Obama never held a "real job" in his life. Obama served as a law professor. Wonder how that makes certain other professors feel.

But more to the point, is a government job not a "real job?" Plenty of people have distinguished themselves in public service. It isn't a bad thing.

Lachlan said...

No, it just means that you do not have experience dealing with the consequences of government policy. I think you would find that bureaucrats would be far more amenable to the plight of the nation's private sector if they had spent some time there.

I obviously do not agree with the notion that a college professor is not a real job. But I do think that it's dangerous to have an executive dominated by academics who base policy on abstract notions of how things should work, not how they do work.

Evan said...

Policy should start with the should and move to the do; if you start with how it does work, you'll never have innovation.

And while I'm somewhat sympathetic to your argument about the "consequences of government policy," I don't think it's really...meaningful. If you work as a doctor, you see one side of government policy--namely, our policy of making sure seniors have access to excellent, government-provided healthcare that pays you less than you'd like but always pays you on time. If you work in a bank you see a government limiting your ability to make a profit. If you work in a construction company you may see the government as a major source of income, if you work on road projects. "The Government" isn't monolithic, and so I think it's hard to say that "private" experience is meaningful in any real way. It's certainly different than public employment, but that cuts both ways.

TJE said...

According to the Clinton campaign:

" Sen. Obama has often referred to himself as “a constitutional law professor” out on the campaign trail. He never held any such title. And I think anyone, if you ask anyone in academia the distinction between a professor who has tenure and an instructor that does not, you’ll find that there is … you’ll get quite an emotional response."

Perhaps the real issue is not private vs public sector but expertise and managerial experience.Governors,for example, may be very good choices.

Lachlan said...

Considering the government exists to serve the private sector (everything that's not the government), it's tremendously important that the people running it understand the needs, desires, stresses, and habits of private actors. If they don't they are susceptible to enacting policies that sound really nice in theory and are devastating to the people that actually have to deal with their consequences.

Evan said...

Bush was the "MBA President" and led us into Iraq, wanted to privatize Social Security, and gave us Medicare Part D.

I don't think gross mismanagement is at all correlated to the number of public or private employees you have around you. And I think the breadth of any individual's experience in the private sector is so small that it would make them, if anything, dangerously overconfident in how they approach problems that they know nothing about, but assume is "just another business issue."

Lachlan said...

I didn't say private sector experience was a sufficient condition for good governance, only that it informs political decisions with knowledge of how the real world works. And obviously having former private sector workers around you is not necessarily going to lead to good economic policy (about half of FDR's cabinet came from the private realm, after all).

I don't really know how to respond to your last point. It just seems like wild speculation.