Taxes, spending, immigration–put the issues aside and examine your own decision-making process before you cast your vote this November — by Paul Schoemaker
As you prepare for the upcoming presidential election, you should contemplate deeply what it takes to be a good U.S. President.
The field has narrowed to two remarkable individuals with varying backgrounds, experiences, and ideological persuasions. My aim here is not to recommend or critique either, but rather to offer a framework for choosing between them.
Although we can surely list some of the problems the next President needs to tackle–from Arab revolutions and global warming to China, Iran, and other geopolitical upheavals–there will probably be new challenges whose form and timing we can’t grasp yet. They may come in the form of natural disasters, military conflicts, ethical dilemmas, or crucibles that test a President’s values and global leadership at its core. So, we must choose a leader who has the necessary wisdom and judgment skills to tackle the unknown as well as the unknowable.
Although judgment and experience have been central themes in the debates, most voters lack a sound framework through which they can judge a candidate’s capacity to make sound decisions.
Past decisions are indeed a guide to someone’s values, thoughtfulness, and decision style. But judging past decisions is complicated by the hindsight bias. Decisions reaching the President’s desk are almost always complex–otherwise other government officials would have handled them.
They are fraught with value conflict and uncertainty, whether they concern issues of war and peace or domestic tradeoffs among economic efficiency and social fairness. Because chance usually plays a large role in how these decisions play out over the longer run, it can be dangerous to equate bad outcomes with bad decisions or good outcomes with good ones in any single decision.
Those who have studied decision making judge decision quality more on the basis of process than outcomes. They would ask the following questions: Read more.