Obama Sticking With Bad Ideas

Larry Price
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Wednesday - August 03, 2011
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It’s always a good idea to temper your opening remarks when talking to a mixed audience, because you never really know how something you say may come back to haunt you. Or worse yet, arouse an adversary’s competitive spirit. You don’t have to go any farther than our President in his State of the Union message earlier this year.

He laid out his vision for public investment in education, innovation, technology and the Internet. It sounded good on the surface but the whole idea got gumbled up in an out-of-control national debt problem. As if that wasn’t enough he decided to announced he was going to run for re-election and it would require him to raise a billion dollars to finance a successful campaign.

Leaders sometimes maintain commitment to a course of action even when that commitment constitutes irrational behavior on their part.


It makes the ordinary taxpayer wonder why someone would maintain commitment to a course of action when that behavior constitutes irrational behavior on his/her part.

Experts all say this is an example of a broader psychological phenomenon known as “escalation of commitment,” an individual’s decisions to stick with a failing course of action. A classic example is a country that continues to pour military resources into an unwinnable armed conflict or someone who keeps putting money into a declining stock in hopes its fortunes will turn. Said another way, throwing good money after bad.

It’s pretty obvious, even to a country-jack like me, that we won’t “win” our future with televisions built in China, software written in India, or using oil from the Middle East. One of the ways to combat this tendency is to have a good advisor, someone who is very rarely consumed by the “heat of the moment.”


Have you ever asked yourself, “Who are these guys listening too?” Everyone knows they are smart. What makes them hang on to a perception that’s not working?

Simply put, emotions are critical features of negotiations encounters that supplement the classical view that negotiations are primarily a rationale process of decision making under risk and uncertainty. Well if that is true, I hope someone notices that the public workforce is operating under great risk and uncertainty.

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