While America clamours for the final few days to choose a Leader, I contend that Job #1 for government and its executive is Management. For all the talk of who promises better ‘Leadership’, it is the Management that concerns me.
Presidents (including Presidents of companies) can do a lot to screw things up, but fixing and improving things is a lot harder. The same is true for companies, sports team and so many enterprises. Like sanding a piece of wood, it takes 20 strokes to sand out one faulty stroke against the grain. ‘Leadership’ has a more exalted ring to it, but in reality good ‘Management’ is 20 times more important.
Viewing Management as the ‘minimisation of downside’, Job 1 of government really is to keep the citizens safe from these downsides. Protection from insiders (police). Protection from outsiders (military). Protection from nature (emergency services). The Founding Fathers appreciated this imperative. The Bill of Rights is not a declaration of possibilities, but of protections.
A certain degree of commerce regulation is just a natural extension of ‘policing’. Not all theft is an overt mugging. Certain government safety-nets are just an extension to ‘rescue services’. It’s not just fire hoses and Coast Guard that people need to blunt the effects of calamity.
In the Age of Black Boxes (see below), this role of protection becomes ever harder as ‘thieving’ becomes ever more opaque. As the government finds ways to clamp down on Ponzi schemes, big banks find ways to mask their manipulation in complex instruments shrouded by a battalion of lawyers and economists (see above).
This need for management oversight is one of my primary reasons for supporting Obama’s candidacy. I think that he is, in his principles and track-record practice, more focused on guarding theft in society especially by the stronger from the weaker. He has demonstrated his management skills throughout his first term – winding down of the American involvements Iraq and Afghanistan without surrender, keeping the American economy from disaster with TARP, keeping the auto industry from dissolution support, and recently with his compassionate, focused coordination of the Sandy response. He did deliver change we can believe in by changing the focus of Washington to better protection of it citizens and better management of its affairs.