Decision-Making Ability Matters More Than Experience

Wisdom from Tyler Cowen in this IM transcript with Ross Douthat on the Sarah Palin VP pick:

Everyone is harping on the experience issue. The biggest question is how good a decision-maker you are and how "meta-rational" you are, namely having the ability to recognize your own imperfections. I don’t know how she does on those counts, but those are the more honest questions, not whether she can name or understand all the different factions in Afghanistan. No one can.

Right on. I’d much rather have someone less experienced but more self-aware and "meta-rational." (I’m not saying Palin is the latter.) This goes for business too. Experience ought not be the only proxy for decision making ability when hiring someone. Asking someone, "What are you strengths and weaknesses?" and then contrasting his answers with the answers of people he’s worked with might be one way to size up his self-awareness.

Speaking of the Palin pick…my Twitter stream is filled with my liberal friends bashing Palin and calling McCain nuts for picking her. I disagree with Palin on virtually everything. But I’d have to agree with my friend Chris that it’s a shrewd political move by McCain.

I have yet to decide who I’m going to vote for in November. I am increasingly unmoved by Obama’s rhetoric and shy away from politicians who believe the path to change / enlightenment starts in Washington. My ideal Washington D.C. is a place where politicians argue with one another all day and get nothing done. If the Dems control the House, Senate, and White House, the probability goes up that politicians will be able pass liberal legislation that attempts to solve all our problems.

I don’t mean for this to pass as an analysis of the scene — the world doesn’t need another pundit on politics, but I couldn’t resist at least a few sentences since politics is in the air!

8 comments on “Decision-Making Ability Matters More Than Experience
  • Good post Ben.

    Obama’s rhetoric might be tiresome but I am still moved by his spirit. In addition I do feel that he genuinely wants to make this country better, something Bush and his cronies never convinced me of.

    That being said, part of me is rather cranky. As a Clinton supporter from day one, it really ticks me off to see her left out in the cold in terms of the VP ticket. Not to mention the fact that Obama still *needed* her to unify the Democratic party and support himself and Biden.

    Personally I think Palin’s a nut case — but that’s just me. The whole experience thing is irrelevantto me as well, I just think the lady is off her rocker. I’d feel better if she were to stay in Alaska… nice and isoalted from the lower forty-eight.

  • Great post & good point. I’ve seen managers succeed by utilizing this ability and promoting people who generally wouldn’t be seen as having enough experience.

    Now my political rant:
    I’m terrified of Palin, her moral and social strictness have altered my vote.

    Heck, last spring I was working on McCain’s commercials and I liked that he was moderate by most standards.

    I fear with her elected a couple of Justices might get elected and start a stir against abortion/birth control. Obviously, based on her family experience both have a place in our society.

  • I see your point about experience. If we want to talk about experience she has had more “executive experience” than McCain himself.

    However as a woman there is one thing which really upsets me.

    Palin says that her daughter made her own decision to keep the baby. This means Palin advocates the right to choose for her daughter while wanting to legislate the removal of that choice for everyone else.

    To the Hillary supporter above – yes, she would have been a much better veep pick to handle this situation.

    Oh well, I can’t vote..

  • Wanting to legislate the removal of choice just means those who violate the law will face punishment. I don’t think it means negation of choice that is clearly impractical. You choose at your own risk. Don’t expect politicians to be censorious condom suppliers either.

    That said, give the lady a break. What could Palin have possibly done beyond cautioning her kid to be careful in relationships like all parents do? Why question her individual candidature with her daughter’s choice for a condom-free experience? Admire the lady for her honesty even at this crucial hour of her life – she could’ve tried to keep it under wraps until the elections got over and let it all hang out after she got herself firmly entrenched in her seat. She didn’t do that.

    Consider her on own merits, that is ok.

  • Regardless of who’s in power in Congress, the President still has huge leeway in appointing Supreme Court justices, which has an effect long after silly debates in Washington pass through the 24 hour news cycle. The court is now so conservative that even Republican appointees get hammered by the right (David Souter, John Paul Stevens).

    So if you oppose Palin’s positions, consider that in a McCain presidency many of them will likely make it onto the Supreme Court in one form or another for the next 30+ years.

    Re: judgment – I’m inclined to believe what Marc Andreesen said about Obama. His view is consistent with what a high school friend who went to U of C law school said about his experience with Obama as a professor.

    Finally, I’m sick of the culture wars. It’s like we have to relive the sixties every four years.

  • “My ideal Washington D.C. is a place where politicians argue with one another all day and get nothing done.”

    Right on, Ben! Agree 100% – I also tend to vote in favor of gridlock, more than anything else.

  • Which may be another argument in favor of skipping college, if you feel you have the chops already. If you wanted to learn to become a better decision maker what parts of college would be most helpful? (partly rhetorical)

  • “My ideal Washington D.C. is a place where politicians argue with one another all day and get nothing done.”

    I happen to agree with this too.

    I think its kind of ludicrous that you have all these entities that make up new laws, day after day, year after year. After a couple hundred years you have a lot of damn laws to remember.

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