An interesting piece in USA Today asks, “Will the first MBA president alter the world’s course differently than seven generals, 27 lawyers, a peanut farmer and an actor before him?” The answer comes from an unlikely source:
Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, usually quick with a joke, begins an interview about Bush by saying that he wants to be serious. What separates those who supported the war and those who opposed it may seem to be philosophical, Adams says. But it’s more than that and comes down to the way they are trained to analyze data and make decisions.
Those who supported Bush, including many in the business community, are more likely to be trained in risk analysis and can weigh the cost of American lives in a war against, say, a 10% chance that Saddam Hussein would one day have used weapons of mass destruction.
Those more likely to oppose the MBA president, including many Hollywood figures and other artists, don’t see why a single life was worth risking for something that had but a 1-in-10 chance of happening. “The artists would be right 90% of the time,” says Adams, who adds that he is not a Bush supporter and disagrees with most of his positions. “But if you have a portfolio of decisions, Bush’s way is right in the long run.”
A very prescient point, and one that had not occured to me. I find it especially interesting in light of the recent debate Megan sparked over how different disciplines perform analysis. (See here and here.) Clearly, one’s analytical training matters. Come to think of it, this may also partially explain why so many perceive Bush’s intelligence to be much lower than it obviously is: Most politicians are trained as lawyers, which is a very rhetorically-oriented mindset. While many businessmen are good orators, it is not a significant focus of their training.
(Hat tip: Reductio Ad Absurdum)