Election 2012

As Consultant in Chief, Mitt Romney Would Rely on the Advice of Other Consultants


Earlier this year, I argued that Mitt Romney's time as a consultant was key to understanding how he thinks of the world and how he'd govern if elected president.

Romney started as a management consultant at Bain and brought consulting tools to the private equity offshoot he founded, Bain Capital. He continued to rely on the consultants toolkit during his time as governor of Massachusetts. 

Here's another data point suggesting that Romney would not merely govern in the style of a big consulting firm, but with the explicit involvement of the consulting world's biggest names: A New Yorker article reminds us that in 2007, The Wall Street Journal caught Romney saying that as president he would hire top-tier consultant groups to help run the executive. Describing how he would organize the White House, he said:

"I would probably have super-cabinet secretaries, or at least some structure that McKinsey would guide me to put in place." He seems to catch a note of surprise in his audience, but he presses on: "I'm not kidding, I probably would bring in McKinsey. . . . I would consult with the best and the brightest minds, whether it's McKinsey, Bain, BCG or Jack Welch."

Romney really likes data, and thinks that with enough data, solutions will always present themselves:

 "I used to call it 'wallowing in the data,'" Mr. Romney continues. "Let me see the data. I want to see the client's data, the competitors' data. I want to see all the data."

This is not only a description of his approach to business. It sums up his political outlook: "You may ask me questions about topics that I haven't studied in depth. I'll be happy to give you my assessment of what I think at this point. But before I would actually make a decision on a very important topic, I would really study it in depth."

This is the fundamental thing to understand about how Mitt Romney would approach policymaking: He may have some mildly conservative instincts — he's hawkish, he's basically pro-business — but ultimately his core belief is that with enough data, enough information, he and a team of sufficiently smart and enterprising people can figure out how to make the machine of government work smoothly and simply. This is why, when you drill down on his policy preferences, they tend to amount to making tweaks and adjustments rather than overhauling the current system. He's a systems guy, a flowchart visionary and obsessive administrative tinkerer who thinks that if you just line up the boxes and arrows in the right order, everything can be managed. Describing him as a liberal or a conservative or a moderate doesn't really capture what he is: a technocrat, in pretty much the purest sense. 

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  1. It’s Romneys all the way down.

  2. Isn’t this the exact same thing Obama was saying 4 years ago?

    1. Packaged differently. But there are definitely similarities.

      1. Except that Obama ignores the advice of consultants.

        1. Or his consultants are loony leftists.

      2. That’s the strongest case you have? There are similarities? No shit. There are similarities between Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul too, but no one with a brain in their head would claim Sanders = Paul.

    2. As Peter notes, it’s a different package. But they’re definitely cut from the same managerialist, Top.Men. cloth that emerged in the early 20th Century and really exploded in the workplace after World War 2.

      “I’d hire certified experts for a blue-ribbon panel to tell me how to fix Bullshit Issue and Distraction Du Jour!”

      1. Except that one of them never managed shit.

        1. Correct again, VG.

      2. “As Peter notes, it’s a different package. But they’re definitely cut from the same managerialist, Top.Men. cloth”

        Yeah, they’re the same except one isn’t qualified to manage a Mcdonalds.

    3. Remember when Bush was the MBA candidate?

      1. Except Bush wasn’t successful in business. Keep trying.

    4. Gore talked the same game too.

    1. look, put us on retainer and we’ll get to discussing your problem.


  3. This is why Mitt Romney will fail utterly to change one of the major problems with Obama: the unrestrained, out of control civil service.

    The civil service will manipulate Romney via spreadsheet and powerpoint charts to make the same decisions that Obama makes based on their pandering to his racism and classism.

    Several of the fingers strangling the economy’s throat are the regulatory uncertainty that comes with an unrestrained civil service. I expect that the economy will continue to stagnate under Romney as he infects the the rest of the United States with the VD known as the Massachusetts Miracle.

    1. A thousand years from now, historians will peg the decline and fall of the American Republic on one cause: the invention and use of PowerPoint.

    2. “The civil service will manipulate Romney via spreadsheet and powerpoint charts”

      LMFAO…yeah, he’s a dumbass that’s easily manipulated, hence the millions he fucked up and lost in business.

      1. You’re laughing? Why?

        I live in the state that Romney was governor of. I’m describing how he actually ran the commonwealth.

        Your faith that Romney will suddenly behave differently in the oval office is charmingly naive.

        1. What powers does the MA governor have in the face of veto proof majorities in the legislature?

        2. “I live in the state that Romney was governor of. I’m describing how he actually ran the commonwealth.”

          No, you didn’t describe anything, you prognosticated: “This is why Mitt Romney will”. But, if you have the time for something else, please, tell us how Romney was manipulated by charts and spreadsheets when he was governor.

      2. Uh, he’s not hiring the levels of bureaucracy below him. Also, the people he hired at Bain have the same goals as him, do well on an engagement and make money on in investment. However, there will be many times when the bureaucracy and the administration will be at cross purposes, but the bureaucracy will hold the data and analysis.

        1. “Uh, he’s not hiring the levels of bureaucracy below him.”

          Venture capital companies invest where there are levels of bureaucracy below them.

          1. They still have the same end-goal, a profitable improved company.

          2. We can only hope the Department of Education winds up like that shuttered steel plant I keep seeing on George Soros’ commercials.

    3. It would be really fun to watch consultants do a brutal re-engineering of every government agency, maybe merging a few, definitely shedding hundreds of thousand of heads. Then they would drop the pension plans and shove them all into 403b’s.

      If the federal government was a private corporation, that would have happened decades ago. But the civil service and their unions have too much power. It would be a waste of money to pay the consultants to tell us what might be.

      1. Ah, but wouldn’t it great if Romney did something like decertify the government unions? (Could he?) Let the Department of Education go on strike and see if test scores suddenly drop or whatever.

  4. So I would assume Mitt Romney is a student of James Burnham?

  5. “…I want to see the client’s data, the competitors’ data. I want to see all the data.”

    And most importantly, the polling data.

    1. Well, it’s data, isn’t it?

  6. Wait…the first go around it was Hoover and then FDR. This time we’re doing it backwards? What’s the over/under on equivalent results?

    1. I’m pretty sure we’re doomed either way.

      I’ll be in my bunker.

    2. I thought Bush was Hoover and Obama FDR. Romney is more like Wendell Willkie (though we’ll see if he wins, unlike Willkie)

  7. Would a Romney Administration force school kids to eat wheat bread? Of course not. He examine white, rye and pumpernickel first.

  8. So, the best I can hope for is analysis paralysis?

    Man, gridlock is looking ever more attractive.

  9. Cue outrage over Reason posting another Romney article without one bashing Obama in 3…2…1…

    1. So, Reason writes article criticising __________, Obamney supporters outraged!

      1. That’s “Reason writes article criticising Obamney, Obamney supporters outraged!”

        1. True enough, but it seems anything even tangentially related gets the TEAM folks upset.

          I rather enjoy it, much to my chagrin. I try to be a good person, dammit.

          1. Well, that’s ‘good’ by libertarian satndards, which we learned today are different from liberal and conservative standards.

    2. I’m outraged that there aren’t more articles critical of Gary Johnson. Sure, I’m going to vote for him, but I’d prefer that no one else do so.

      1. I know, right? We can’t keep our indie libertarian cred if too many people vote for him!

        Sadly, I’ve met people who actually believe that’s the reason we’re libertarian.

      2. That one about Johnson closing all American embassies was industrial strength stupid.

    3. This one is at least factual, though I’m not really sure what Suderman’s point is. I assume he means this as a negative article, but seriously, considering the last two presidents’ circles of advisors, we could do a lot worse than a consulting firm.

      I hate consulting firms and efficiency experts, but they’re better than David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, and Valerie Jarret running things.

      1. Indeed. And I suspect that Romney understands GIGO, that people with vested interests (including consultants) aren’t always honest, etc.

        Romney is most likely to be an Ike-like president, not significantly dismantling what he inherited. But that’s still better than another four years of “Forward” to socialism and bankruptcy, and he’ll have the Tea Party ragging his ass.

  10. I almost read the beginning of the second paragraph as “Romney started as a management consultant tool”. Personally, I think this is more accurate, and the article should be changed to match.

  11. The last thing I want is some tool wanting to make government more effective and efficient. I want someone actively working to cause massive gridlock.

  12. Describing him as a liberal or a conservative or a moderate doesn’t really capture what he is: a technocrat, in pretty much the purest sense.


    But the real questions are:

    a) Will engage in blatantly illegal actions like Obama’s administration has? Not

    b) Will he be an absentee vacation president that gives the bureaucracy a blank check? doubtful

    c) Will he be more likely than Obama to sign a repeal of Obamacare? Yes

    d) Will the press start reporting on and criticizing a Romney administration? Yes.

    But by all mean pretend that there’s no difference between them.

    1. A. Yes.

      B. probably not.

      C. he would probably sign it, if it passed, but I could see him tweaking it instead, which is the point.

      D. Yes.

      I dont see anything in there that doesnt suggest I vote for Romney instead of Johnson.

      1. does, not doesnt. Im still voting for Johnson is more point.

    2. Did you watch the convention? Romney was annoyed that he had to wait for those pesky delegates to rubber stamp his demands — before he was the official nominee! He is every bit the dictatorial psychopath that Obama is. Even Mark Levin was pointing out that his power grabs made him look like Obama. His “super-cabinet secretaries” sound eerily similar to the parade of “czars” Obama appointed.

      I agree that he is more likely to be persuaded to sign a repeal of Obamacare than Obama is, but let’s not get carried away here.

      1. Every politician has ego issues. But BO, or whoever’s running the administration in his name while he hits the links, is demonstrably in a class by himself.

      2. Romeny might try to pull half the shit that Obama has, but media enmity will provide some kind of check. So yeah I doubt he’ll completely ignore Congress to make war or change welfare policy and I also doubt that he’d get away with anything remotely resembling Fast-n-Furious.

  13. “You may ask me questions about topics that I haven’t studied in depth. I’ll be happy to give you my assessment of what I think at this point. But before I would actually make a decision on a very important topic, I would really study it in depth.”

    As opposed to having little knowledge of an important topic and making uninformed decisions?

  14. The old joke is that consultants come into your firm, look at your watch, and then tell you what time it is. In other words, they interview all the senior execs, some of the mid-level guys, maybe even a few grunts, and then sort out and propose a strategy for growth and profits. Venture Capitalists may do the same but are far more interested in radically remaking the target company to optimize
    assets and create wealth so they can flip it at a big profit.
    What neither type does is restrict itself to staying within some
    traditional or historical mission statement – they may advocate, say, an airline buy an oil refinery, or an insurance company buy a software developer. Government is, or should be, different – what
    Romney or Obama wishes to do must be constrained by the country’s operating document, the Constitution. And neither shows much interest in staying within its constraints.

    1. I think Romney has a better understanding of balance sheets, though, not to mention their importance.

  15. von Mises discusses this worldview in Human Action. The empiricist view of the world is known as Positivism, and its political manifestation is Progressivism. Romney is just the “conservative” flavor of Obama and will be a failure for many of the same reasons Obama has failed.

  16. Tom Smykowski: Have you seen this? I knew it! I knew it!
    [he hands them a piece of paper]
    Michael Bolton: What? It’s the staff meeting. So what?
    Tom Smykowski: So what? We’re all screwed, that’s what! They’re gonna downsize Initech.
    Samir: What are you talking about Tom? How do you know that?
    Tom Smykowski: How do I know? They’re bringing in a consultant, that’s how I know. That’s what this staff meeting is all about! It happened at Initrode last year. You have to interview with this consultant, they call in efficiency experts. But what you’re really doing is interviewing for your own job!
    Michael Bolton: Tom, every week you say you’re gonna lose your job and you’re still here.
    Tom Smykowski: Not this time. I’ll bet I’m the first one laid off! Just the thought of having to go to the state unemployment office and stand in line with those scumbags!

  17. The Wall Street Journal caught Romney saying that as president he would hire top-tier consultant groups to help run the executive.

    As opposed to the Chicago machine creatures Obama has running things now.

  18. I did not care for him, is expected from this situation, I did not really say, fell from the capital. Even if there http://www.cheapuggsbootsforwomen.org/ was a gun in the hand must not mean Doude Guo Zhang Yan. Thought this, I saw the boss Zhang nodded. Heroes do not eat immediate loss anyway, now she brings those things that I did not need Senate combined.

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