Ignorant Decision Makers in the Public Sector, Ignorant Decision Makers in the Private Sector
I once had a rant about attorneys. I noted:
I remember something my father, a physicist, once said about Bill Richardson when Richardson was Secretary of Energy. My father doubted that Richardson could come up with a reasonable definition of the word “energy.” Looking at Richardson’s wikipedia entry right now, I suspect my father was right. Other than a law degree, it seems Richardson’s primary qualification to make decisions about, say, nuclear reactors, was studying French. His second most important qualification seems to be having played baseball in college.
The post goes on:
Even dropping out of law school can help get you somewhere. Witness Don Rumsfeld, apparently attempting to be the first American Secretary of Defense to lose two major wars, assuming he doesn’t get his way in the next few months (in which case he might lose a third one).
Which leads to two questions with which I’ll end my rant…
1. There are some positions that are clearly off-limits for attorneys, such as Surgeon General or Chair of the Joint Chiefs. These (at least the Surgeon General position) can’t possibly be any more difficult or critical, say, than sitting on the board of the Federal Reserve or head of the EPA or FEMA. What makes these positions so special that they are reserved for someone who at least appears to have some minimum expertise as opposed to an obvious ignorant political hack?
2. Why is it OK to have an attorney making decisions about nuclear power, or how to combat mad cow disease or scrapie, or whatever else, regardless of the attorney’s level of ignorance on the subject at hand, but not OK to have, say a physicist with no legal training on the Supreme Court or a biologist with no legal training as Attorney General?
Obama is doing much the same thing as his predecessors when it comes to cabinet picks: despite the appointment of someone to Richardson’s old job that actually can produce define a working definition of the word energy, he is selecting a cabinet that contains a lot of attorneys. That includes Richardson, doing yet another job for which one has to wonder: what the heck qualifies him for this?
So I still wonder about my two questions. And by the way – if being an economist, or plumber, or pediatrician gave one the same privileges, I’d have the same rant. But we ain’t gonna see an economist, or a plumber, or an ob gyn nominated to the Supreme Court any time soon.
I also note – this is not a gubmint thing. Much (though fortunately not all) of corporate America also values ignorance in decision making – its just that the requirements to get to be an ignorant person making decisions in the private sector are a bit different, though the two sets (i.e., ignorant decision makers in the private sector and ignorant decision makers in the public sector) do overlap quite a bit. In fact, if you’re an ignorant person in the private sector, you’re automatically qualified to be an ignorant person in the public sector, even if you aren’t an attorney. And with enough ignorance, one can actually jump back and forth between the public and private sectors and make it to the pinnacles of power in both.