Friday, November 21, 2008

Let's Not Overshoot

Image representing The New York Times as <span class=depicI read this Op-Ed column in the NY Times titled The Insider's Crusade, and came away a little worried that we're going to overshoot on the political decision methodology spectrum.

Under George W., we've been in "Go With Your Gut" mode for 8 years and it hasn't worked out so well. So the natural move is go "Educated Elite Ultra Analysis" mode. More thinking and analysis is great but the article felt a little too self-congratulatory. Here's one quote.

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

When people are mentioned in the article, their undergrad and grad school are listed. My worry is that we overshoot. I've been lucky enough to go to two great schools - Berkeley & Kellogg - but I learned very quickly that a great academic resume does not make you a "Do-er" - defined as someone who makes good decisions and get's things done. The Fed has basically ruined the country over the last 10+ years with terrible economic policy that created terrible incentives for bankers and hedge funds. Everyone of those Fed governors has Ph D's up the wazzoo from top institutions. Did they make good decisions? No.

We need people who can combine their academic background and personal experience to make good decisions. There is always a shade of grey in every decision and it's even easier to rationalize a bad one - see dropping interest rates to 1% - so these are hard qualities to judge, but we should attempt to judge them. We should be reading about these people's decision making experience and methodologies, not their SAT scores and the names of the Universities they attended. Of course, we hope these qualifications are proxies for their decision making abilities, but let's dig in a little here and not lose sight of what is important.