Tuesday afternoon, as I was reading Barack Obama’s Georgetown University speech on “climate change,” it occurred to me that the biggest and perhaps most consequential difference between the government and the private sector is how each reacts when reality doesn’t behave as expected.
The public sector does not have a monopoly on people who become irrationally wedded to ideas and programs which have become outmoded, obsolete, redundant, or worthless. The difference is what happens to such people — and in some cases, their firms — in the private sector when they stubbornly stick to their guns.
At a private firm, if a new product or idea loses — or is on track to lose — serious amounts of money, or if a research project is going nowhere, it gets killed (see: the Ford Edsel, New Coke, Apple Newton). Those who fall in love with these flame-outs and blindly defend them even when the handwriting is on the wall get fired. If a bad product or idea isn’t terminated quickly enough, it has the potential to jeopardize entire companies, even large ones (see JCPenney’s three-tier pricing plan and HP’s 2011 Touchpad debacle).
But within government?
Hah… read the whole thing!