Strong opinions, weakly held

How thought experiments go wrong

O’Reilly Radar republishes a blog post imagining what Steve Jobs would do if he were President of the United States and needless to say, the writer supposes that Steve Jobs would do lots of cool stuff. What the article really shows is that the writer has no clue how the government actually works. Our government is structured in such a way that it’s incredibly difficult to get a lot done, regardless of who you are, and the sort of silly thinking that this article espouses only makes the problem worse. What the country needs is structural change that makes it possible for our leaders to be more effective, not magical thinking about the persuasive powers of great leaders.

Thinking about what should happen is easy — the hard part is figuring out the mechanisms by which it can happen, whether it’s political reform at the national level or setting up a continuous integration platform for your software development project. After seeing the excitement and hope of the Obama campaign transition into two years of excruciating political trench warfare, I just don’t have any interest in hand waving and big, silly ideas.

The federal government is full of smart, competent, persuasive people working in a system that prevents them from rapidly addressing even the problems with obvious solutions. Let’s see some realistic thought experiments that address that.


  1. “Thinking about what should happen is easy — the hard part is figuring out the mechanisms by which it can happen”

    This is a very good point. It was presented to me in the context of Google as “strategy is easy, everyone knows what the 5 year strategy is, tactics are hard, the chess moves to get from here to there is were the genius is.”

  2. Great post. In three succinct paragraphs you’ve addressed one of the biggest challenges the United States faces.

  3. Excellent post, the article would more realistically be titled “Let’s imagine Steve Jobs is Grand Exalted Presidente for Life of the United States”.

  4. If I ran the zoo, …

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