Bush the MBA Public Administrator

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/28/2007 02:16:00 AM
I was browsing the latest issue of Public Administration Review when the very first article stopped me in my tracks, "The First MBA President: George W. Bush as Public Administrator." For some time now, the trend in public administration studies has been to speak of public management as opposed to the more traditional administration. Supposedly, general management theory now informs government affairs to a large extent. Bush could have been a good fit with this trend. However, as the author James Pfiffner points out, perhaps business administration needs a better champion in public service. While lauding Bush's "bold thinking," "consistent adherence to his chosen policies," and commitment to "racial and gender diversity," Pfiffner faults Bush for his "lack of systematic deliberation" and "failure to weigh sufficiently the judgments of military and other public administration professionals."

I could scribble endlessly on Bush's innumerable managerial shortcomings (group think, anyone?) but there is little point in kicking a dead horse with a sub-30% approval rating. I'd just like to add that budget management--a key managerial task--has suffered much with Bush's untax and spend policies. That he has racked up the biggest budget (and trade) deficits in American history gives MBAs a bad name. That Bill Clinton--a lawyer--managed to balance the budget and even run a surplus is telling. Would American finances have done better if Bush spent more time studying managerial accounting, or would its international relations have been better if Bush took a course in cross-cultural communication? I doubt it. The recent record of businessmen as public servants is not good, be it (the long-gone) Silvio Berlusconi of Italy or (the overthrown) Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand. As cynical as people get about politics sometimes, there is still a public service component not fully captured by for-profit dynamics. And, you can take that to the (central) bank.