Bush, the MBA President
This is from a column in today's LA Times by Charles Kesler, a conservative who teaches at Claremont McKenna College. Do you think Bush learned about the history behind the MBA?
Business schools are a relatively new institution. The MBA was invented in the Progressive era as a way to abort future generations of robber barons. The idea was to train a class of business administrators (the ethos was anti-entrepreneurial) who would expiate capitalism's sins by managing their corporations in keeping with higher morality. The higher morality was whatever the spirit of the age revealed to professors and high-toned Protestant ministers. Over decades, the pursuit of ethical uplift waned, and the pursuit of efficiency and new methods of reading a balance sheet waxed, paving the way for the increasingly empty trendiness of modern management books.
It's hard to say what President Bush absorbed from his management studies. We can only draw inferences, though eventually historians may know more. Defending Donald H. Rumsfeld a few weeks ago, Bush said: "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of Defense."
Being the decider-in-chief suggests one paradigm of modern management: the executive who makes the final decisions, the tough calls. He "hears" and even listens to others before deciding, but the point of a decision (from decidere, "to cut off") is to be decisive, not to reason your way to a judgment that can be explained to others.
Bush's management style is long on decisions and short on explanations. He's apparently better at listening to others than questioning their views. He prefers to have around him people whose judgment he trusts implicitly, even as he insists that they trust and abide by his decisions implicitly.