So, I was reading Businessweek the other day (again) and an interview with Soros (subscription required) struck me a little bit odd and misleading.
But a little background first...
Management and Decision Making Styles
One of the first things I remember from my management class was a graph that looked somewhat like this:
Of course it was fancier and what not, but that's the basic idea. If you are in a situation where there is a relatively small amount of time pressure, you can take a little while to make the decision and the structure for the decision making (the management) tends to be relatively democratic. If you are under a deadline and are doing something "serious" or "scary" then there isn't enough time to consider a very broad set of inputs and the decision tends to be more autocratic.
The lesson also discussed how you can flip the situation - or the perception of the situation - to use a different management style. So, if a person or an organization needs to be more autocratic to get an organization to move quickly or do something that isn't very popular then you can emphasize a relatively scary, serious, and time-sensitive item in the world which will give management more power and allow them to make decisions on their own. The employees will respond to this reasonably well for at least a little while because that's what employees do in times of crisis.
Use and Abuse of Crises - Both Invented and Real
So, if you can use an invented crisis to move people to action and make positive change happen then that's a pretty awesome thing. If you disagree with the course of action then you will tend to see this as an abuse of power. There are several examples from U.S.A. politics that show this method in use - whether for good or bad:
- Johnson's War on Poverty
- Carter's Crisis of Confidence Speech
- Bush's War On Terrorism
- Al Gore's War on? for? the Environment
You can argue with some of the examples, and I'm sure you will because I chose some from basically every side, but just look at the following list and see if you can find one example that fits it:
- Periods of relatively strong national stability and wealth
- "Enemies" that cannot be defeated
- Solutions that are more costly than the problem, or which solve problems unrelated to the one cited as the motivation
- Problems which don't exist or are vastly overstated
George Soros: do as I say, not as I do
So given all of that, you can imagine the irony that I found when George Soros was asked and responded:
Your book is unusually harsh on President Bush. At one point you write: "The Bush Administration and the Nazi and Communist regimes all engaged in the politics of fear." Do you really believe the Administration is a threat to democracy?
Yes, I really do believe that, and that is why I got involved in politics....President Bush as appropriated excessive powers for the executive branch...
Let me see if I get this straight, Soros feels that Bush mislead the world and used the power he gained for inappropriate purposes. To prove that, Soros is going to...mislead the public into thinking that the Administration is equivalent to "Nazis and Communist regimes" so that he can achieve his own political goals.
All in a days work, eh George.