The Bus to Abilene

I’m currently reading Susan Cain’s book on introversion, Quiet. Here, Cain quotes Colonel (Ret.) Stephen J. Gerras, a professor of behavioral science at the U.S. Army War College:

…a family sitting on a porch in Texas on a hot summer day, and somebody says, ‘I’m bored. Why don’t we go to Abilene?’ When they get to Abilene, somebody says, ‘You know, I didn’t really want to go.’ And the next person says, ‘I didn’t want to go–I thought you wanted to go,’ and so on. Whenever you’re in an army group and somebody says, ‘I think we’re getting on the bus to Abilene here,’ that is a red flag. You can stop a conversation with it. It is a very powerful artifact of our [the army’s] culture.

Anybody who has worked in a bureaucratic culture knows this well. The leader says ‘let’s do this’. Often whatever this is doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the leader doesn’t bother to entertain objections. And, it’s in nobody’s self-interest to object and explain why it doesn’t make sense. It’s less risky to just do it than rock the boat.

I’ve found that even when bureaucratic leaders say they want people to push back, they really don’t. Bureaucrats learn that fast. It’s better to be employed and in good-standing than to be right.

I was intrigued to find out that a hierarchical and bureaucratic organization like the army has a device to counter this dynamic. But, then again, they have a stronger motivation for it. It’s not just their position that could be stake, their lives could be at stake as well.

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By the way…

Here’s one of the best by-the-way’s I read this week.  It’s from a Wall Street Journal interview with Texas Senator, John Cornyn:

Paul Ryan in the House proposed a constructive solution to . . . our fiscal problems. And rather than engage and propose something constructive himself . . . [the president] decided to go into the class-warfare mode, where, as you know, you can’t raise taxes enough to solve the problem.”

“And by the way,” he adds, “it’s not raise taxes so we can pay down the debt, it’s raise taxes so we can keep on keeping on—doing what we’re doing, which is spending a whole lot more money, making a whole lot more promises than we can actually keep from a financial standpoint.”

That’s an extremely important by the way.

This is something that the people who advocate raising taxes to ‘solve our problems’ don’t seem to get.  It won’t solve our problems. Not even close.

McJobs Revisited

Krugman asserts.

Kevin Williamson does an apt job at responding.

I personally don’t spend much time on Krugman’s columns. I find his lapses in logic laughable and the fact that he gets so much attention as evidence of a nation lacking in critical thinking skills.

Just as an example, first Kruman writes (emphasis-added):

Several factors underlie this rapid population growth: a high birth rate, immigration from Mexico, and inward migration of Americans from other states, who are attracted to Texas by its warm weather and low cost of living, low housing costs in particular.

A few paragraphs later he writes:

What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states.

The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs…involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.

Wouldn’t you think it plausible that a state with a lower cost of living, and ‘low housing costs in particular’, would also have lower wages?  Just sayin…

And as far as the McJobs argument goes, I’ve never understood it.

If folks are willing to work, let them.  They may learn something. They may acquire skills and get a chance to earn more as they get better. That’s much more productive than waiting.

I started out for less than minimum wage.  I learned a great deal and built experience that I still draw on today.   That was much more valuable than watching reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies.

Though, Williamson’s response casts doubt on the accuracy of Krugman’s claim in that regard as well.