Liars and cheaters

It’s been a bad week for the reputation of big business and its captains of industry.  Trump and Fiorina, those shining examples of the species, lied their way through the debate, and Fiorina’s unremitting failure at business has started to attract appropriate attention.  Trump’s incompetence as a businessman, and his lies about that, have not been sufficiently noted, despite this two-week-old analysis.  Ehrenfreud notes that the passive-investment model doesn’t include living expenses. Fair enough: if he had put his money into an S&P index fund in 1978 and taken out walking-around money starting at $3m and ending at $16m a year, he would have $4b today.  All his wheeling and dealing, and the money he took from sucker investors and lenders through his bankruptcies, didn’t even beat Harold Pollack’s index card. Neither of them can pass the Hyman Roth test  (“Your father [Vito Corleone] always made money for his partners”).  Is this the best Republicans can put up as sound business leaders?

Mark has pretty well toasted VW, but he neglected to mention the damage this piece of schweinerei has done to the market potential of diesels, the actually (not mislabeled-as) clean of which are an important element of reducing the global warming effect of transportation.  I am not too surprised by this story, though no less outraged, because I remember the decades in which GM, DuPont and Standard Oil conspired to sicken and stupefy millions and millions of Americans because, while ethanol was a perfectly good octane enhancer, it couldn’t be patented. Making engines require tetraethyl lead to keep their valves from burning was like runaway slot machine for them.  And we got a crime wave from it, to boot.

I realize one reason I am simply beside myself about this is personal.  I am a good non-partisan (at least I was before the Republicans became crazy and hateful) teacher; whatever students say, I try to make them think twice, consider another perspective and more facts, and like that.  At Berkeley,  part of my job is to stay somewhat to the right of my students. My Introduction to Policy Analysis course is beginning an economics unit, and in the usual way, we get into market failures starting from the virtues of the market when it works properly. These incompetents and criminals have put me in an especially difficult position for class Monday.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

13 thoughts on “Liars and cheaters”

  1. At Berkeley, part of my job is to stay somewhat to the right of my students.

    Curious where this is on the spectrum "I don't know how to tell you kids this, but I have minor reservations about one of Marx's early works", or perhaps "The state should not own more than 99% of property in a society. Well, call it 99.5%"

    : )

    1. A fine Stanford quip is brewing, but I fear it would offend your delicate Hoover Institution sensibilities, Humphreys.

    2. Since you ask, we have a fair percentage of Orange County, Peninsula, and Central Valley reactionaries, some of whom are starting to wonder if everything their parents tell them is true, but on the whole they (especially the ones minoring in public policy and not majoring in business) are a typical lefty, not radical, college-age crowd. Many are deeply suspicious of all institutions, perhaps because they have so transparently been cheated by them in the last couple of decades.

      So are your Stanford students still bringing "Tax cuts for the rich!" banners to football games?

        1. I am a big fan of Cal. It serves an important social function: providing a place to attend to college if you want to live in the Bay Area but don't have the qualifications to get into Stanford.

          1. Those would be our 13,700 Pell grant recipients (37% of undergraduates), who lack the walletfication for Stanford (1100 Pell granters there, 16%), right?
            I'm a big fan of Stanford, which provides a place in my classroom for kids who are the first in their families to go to college, 20% the last time I polled a class. If it were bigger, and could take more of the entitled silverspoon kids whose family and neighborhood advantages have already secured their futures (like, um, Carly F. '76), I would be even happier.

          2. Stanford tuition is free for people with less than 125k income – tuition room and board are free for people with less than 65k income – unless Cal does the same the Pell grant comparison wouldn’t be meaningful

          3. St Trinian's are expected to beat Roedean without the ambulance actually having to drive on to the pitch.


  2. Trump may not fade because of his incompetence, or because he is a loudmouth bully and braggart who will go too far and say something too patently absurd and offensive. Maybe it will be with him as Victor Hugo said of Napoleon: God became bored with him.

    1. Of all the reasons I have heard cited about why Trump will fade, I find this the most believable.

      1. Not sure Trump can say anything sufficiently absurd or offensive once the primaries move to the March 1 superprimary throughout the South.

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