The Paris Accord
Harvard Becomes Ugly Censurer

The Brain Drain

By Jonathan B. Wight

Several months ago I predicted that self-respecting civil servants would be reluctant to stay working for an administration that shows so little regard for ethics, which includes the process by which public policies are enacted. 

The New York Times reports that key career diplomats in the State Department are starting to jump ship.  The ranking American official in Beijing, David Rank, announced yesterday he was resigning in protest against the decision to pull out of the Paris accords.

“’[Rank] was a complete pro, extremely well-regarded,’ said Daniel F. Feldman, a former special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. ‘In all his years working for me, I never even knew his politics; exactly what you’d hope for from a career Foreign Service officer.’”

Meanwhile, the OMB Director, Mick Mulvaney, unleashed a tirade against Holly Harvey, the economist who put together the CBO scorecard for the health care bill passed by the House.  He accused her of partisanship simply because she did her job, following economic logic.  In other words, he criticized her for not making up numbers to fit what the President wanted.  (Note that the head of the CBO is a Republican appointee.)

Why would anyone of credibility want to stay or take a job at the CBO under these conditions?  The people who do stay may be more concerned with ideology than with truth-seeking. 

We all remember the slogan during Mao’s Cultural Revolution:  “Better red than expert.”  It was more important to the dictator that a factory manager or college professor be well-heeled with regard to Mao’s little red book of writings than it was to actually know anything about efficiency or economics. 

Please remember the 30 million or more who died by starvation in the ideological push for forced collectivized agriculture.  “Better red than expert” is a recipe for disaster--America, are you listening?

Deng Xiaoping’s famous come-back to Mao, which landed him in prison, was “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches the mouse.”  Long live the pragmatist Deng! 

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Bottom Line:  We need virtuous civil servant economists who will adopt professional ethical standards in their roles in government. If in doubt, consult The Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics.

And down with politicians who confuse their narrow political causes with allegiance to America. 


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Don't discount also the summary dismissals of young talent that we're bearing at DOL, the primary purpose of which can only be judged, in the cowardly absence of communication from upper management, as the intentional infliction of maximum pain, primarily of course on those let go, but also as a signal to the survivors.

Thanks for the head's up. I was not aware of this, but you're right: the intention may be to strike fear into those who remain. -- JW

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