Conservative Incompetence Continued….When Dick Cheney fought like the dickens to prevent anyone from knowing anything about his 2001 energy task force, you might have thought ? I sure did ? that he wanted to keep secret the names of the high rollers he invited. Maybe, though, he had another motive: given how bad conservatives have proven to be at governance, keeping their incompetence as secret as possible makes perfect sense.

Conservatives fail because those who hate government cannot run it very well ? the theme of my recent article in the July/August issue of The Washington Monthly. But then there is also what can be called conservative management theory. Conservatives have strong ideas about how organizations ought to be run ? and those ideas invariably make them run badly.

One such idea is that no information hostile to those in charge should ever leak out. The result, however, is that no good information ever leaks in. The smaller the number of decision-makers, the less the knowledge on which decisions are based. It is not good to keep a tight ship if the ship always sinks.

Conservatives love to proclaim courage a virtue, and a manly one at that. But loyalty to the man at the top, another conservative management idea, encourages fawning among all those below. If you want to fill an organization from top to bottom with chickens, give medals of freedom to as many people as you can.

Finally, conservatives view organizations in exactly the opposite way they treat markets. The economy, they insist, works most efficiently when spontaneous decisions emerge from the uncoordinated actions of millions of anonymous consumers. But when they run organizations, they insist on formal organization charts, aim to leave nothing to chance, and treat all decisions as authoritative. Their theory of the private sector is borrowed from Adam Smith. Their approach to the public sector owes far too much to state socialism.

But you need not take my word for all this. Dick Cheney was able to prevent public scrutiny of his energy task force, but no one has been able to prevent Ron Suskind?s in depth examination of how the Republicans are fighting the war on terror. The One Percent Doctrine ought to be taught at the Harvard Business School as proof positive of how one famous graduate of that institution got it all wrong when he became CEO of the whole country.

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