Monday, December 05, 2005

Why Leadership Matters

Welcome to the ranty portion of tonight's blogging. I'll try to keep a cool head on my shoulders.

A few weeks ago, I saw the following quip, which I thought was funny:
Yes, it would be nice to have evidence-based policy-making. But even if we can't get that, perhaps we can do away with policy-based evidence-making.
(link via Hallq)

A few weeks ago, there was a post on
Legal Fiction discussing all the 'hidden' effects of our choice of Presidents, focusing on a political decision to ignore recommendations of career civil rights litigators in approving what is essentially a poll tax in Georgia. (Recently, there has been a similar questionable decision in Texas. The Voting Rights Act is very complicated, but when career experts in the field unanimously agree, and are overruled on political grounds its noteworthy simply because it is so rare.) Since then we've seen more of the same with political fidelity and cronyism trumping knowledge and expertise. And finally, a damning roundup from The Plank:
1. Report accuses EPA of Slanting Analysis: Hill Researchers Say Agency Fixed Pollution Study to Favor Bush's 'Clear Skies'

2. Gonzales Defends Approval of Texas Redistricting by Justice

3. No One Home at HUD

Congressional investigators found spotty performance from the start in how federal and state officials handle complaints of housing discrimination: Sometimes they do not answer the phone or return the calls.

4. Head of POW Affairs Resigns

A senior Pentagon official who has been under internal investigation, accused of abusive management practices, told his staff he was retiring for health reasons.

5. State Department Using Ideological Litmus Tests to Screen Speakers

But we are told that such slavish devotion to administration policies is required to win the War on Terror. Except it appears to be hurting rather than helping. Witness:
FBI agents botched a terrorism investigation in Florida and tried to cover up mistakes, said Justice Department investigators, who also concluded that a high-ranking official retaliated against the longtime undercover agent who pointed out the problems.
(emphasis mine). At a certain point, jamming square ideological pegs into round real world problems goes beyond merely exasperating into outright dangerous. Having an ideology is fine, and in some ways, probably necessary. But belief does not equal knowledge. Faith does not equal expertise or skill. Desire does not equal capability.

I'm wary to make comparisons to historical regimes where toeing the party line has superseded competence and excellence as a job qualification, as such comparisons tend to be conversation stoppers. But there is a reason those are historical regimes. That manner of governance does not work: it cannot compete against meritocracy. I hope I'm wrong that these stories represent a larger pattern. I hope this is just another example of 'liberal bias' in the Mainstream Media. But I've seen little evidence to that effect. And unlike those in power, I need facts to back up faith.

No comments: