As young boys growing up, my cousin and I would often make our own toys out of sticks, wire, tin-cans, anything we could get our hands on. Once I made myself a bow, and using wire-tipped bamboo sticks as arrows and trees as targets, I soon discovered that I was a natural archer. Before long, I was not just hitting the tree, but almost the same spot on a tree consistently from 50 feet away.
While I could win any tree shooting contest, my cousin could hit a bird in mid-flight with the greatest of ease. I have since learned that in firearms training, shooters trained in “precision shooting” have “historically not fared well in actual gun battles.” While all soldiers can be marksmen, not all marksmen are soldiers. Soldiers don’t just have skill. They have courage and are willing to get dirty, and to even die for the cause. They are not only good shots when they are firing at a tree, but also when they are shooting at moving targets which are firing back at them.
Technocrats must remember that effective public policy deals with moving targets, and that the problems they are trying to solve will also fire back at them. The challenges our nation faces will require problem solvers to be people of courage who can fight for what they believe. They must be able to deal with the fact that their optimum solutions will encounter people whose choices are not always based on ultimate rationality. They must be able to balance the fact that the same people who desperately need jobs are the ones who survive on the cheap imports that kill our capacity to create jobs
In short, our technocrats must not just have the technical ability to solve problems. They must be able to lead.