Update: We have published This Is Not America - September 1, 2021 Newsletter !
This Is Not America
People used to joke that President George W. Bush revived the Ford Administration when he picked Cheney and Rumsfeld as his wingmen in 2000. But even now, two decades later, the ghosts of the 1970s haunt us - military misadventures, inflation and rising crime. These problems resulted from how we responded to two early 21st century crises, 9-11 and the Great Financial Crisis. Now a third crisis of our relatively new century – Covid-19 – is accelerating and deepening economic and societal fractures and resurrect problems we thought we solved.
The world is changing but human nature does not change and managing human affairs remains a work in progress. History rhymes because it is composed by men and women. We manage wars and economies with plans that are emotional, reactive and politicized - and therefore imperfectly conceived, structured and executed. The conundrum of governing is that complex problems involve many known unknowns (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Rumsfeld) that require flexibility and creativity, qualities for which large government bureaucracies are particularly ill-suited. Government bureaucracies are also vulnerable to groupthink because they function as political organizations where individuals are rewarded based largely on consensus rather than dissension. As John Maynard Keynes famously wrote: “Worldly wisdom teaches us that it is better for reputation to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.” Government (and business) bureaucracies are filled with conventional failures. There are good reasons why the most successful people are founders, not followers.