The Feiler Faster Thesis and professional lying

Too weird. Today’s Financial Times has a quote from the CEO of Dubai Ports World denying that the company had even “thought of” selling off P&O’s U.S. port management contracts. I read that story immediately after seeing on my screen that DPW had agreed to do precisely that.

Web speed, which is a little faster than Warp speed, sometimes leads to interesting juxtapositions.

I had no sooner read Kevin Drum’s post announcing that Dubai Ports World had agreed to sell its U.S. port-management contracts to a player to be named later than I opened up this morning’s Financial Times to see a Page-1 story which has the CEO of DPW continuing to “insist that the operations would not be sold.” Mohammed Sharaf told the FT “We have not even thought of that yet.”

I guess they think pretty quick back in the good ol’ UAE.

If I’d read the denial that DPW was even considering a sale before I read the story that DPW had actually agreed to a sale, I might not have noticed the implausibility. And I can understand the tactical considerations that impelled Mr. Mohammed to deny that his firm was even considering something that it was actually thinking about really hard.

Still, it’s a depressing fact about the contemporary world that business, political, and administrative leaders of all kinds are called upon to tell flat-out lies, and to do so under circumstances which mean that their lies are likely to be unmasked, and in some cases sooner rather than later. It must be the case that filtering out of those positions people with enough personal integrity to refuse to lie for a living degrades the ethical, and perhaps the operational, quality of decision-making at high levels.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com