Thursday, January 13, 2005

Remember when Bush first came into office, he made a lot of the fact that he was the first president with an MBA, and who had no previous experience with the way things are done in Washington? I distinctly remember one of his weekly addresses, given sometime between January 20 and September 11 2001, where he announced that he would use his business skills to make government more efficient and more responsive.

Problem is, if you think of government as a business and the president as its CEO, you will also see things like, oh, international law as just another annoying impediment to your freedom to make decisions -- much like a CEO may think of the tax code and all those other tedious regulations they have to deal with, like worker safety and environmental protections. You won't think of governing as a solemn obligation; that you have a duty to uphold, and that maybe you should occasionally exceed its literal requirements to create goodwill. Instead, you will tell the government's legal experts that they are now the equivalent of corporate lawyers, that it is now their job to probe for loopholes in the law, and then exploit them as best they can.

Strange as it seems, there are some things that traditional Washington insiders do right, and maverick MBAs don't get. More generally, you don't necessarily improve government by pretending it's a business.

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