A remarkably bi-partisan leadership group called Results for America has made what it calls "Moneyball for Government" (brief video here) the centerpiece of its advocacy. It includes former cabinet-level members of both the Bush2 and Obama Administrations, Senator Mary Landrieu and former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They are calling for "evidence-based governance" that seeks to move from common principles to policies and to gauge the programs that ensue for future funding based on how well they achieve defined metrics of performance.
Too often, they say, government has operated by mere belief or at the behest of special interests, which come to include the entrenched bureaucracies that grow up around well-meant pots of money. Regardless of results, programs acquire lives of their own. Liberals and Conservatives alike and point to absurd wastes of resources, whether they result from Ike's military industrial complex, or any of many social investments that would not survive dispassionate, results-based scrutiny. They hope to transform governance the way the A's have transformed Major League Baseball's talent valuations and team-building meaning 'fundamentally.'
Now, this is more a trend than a Eureka moment. Governments at all levels have recently adopted performance metrics to guide some of their programming. The Bush2 and Obama crowds have both embraced the concept. Examples include the President's 2015 Proposed Budget, which contains initiatives like the Social Innovation Fund, Expanded Performance Partnership Pilots, and other 'seed' program where the government pays only upon success, as quantitatively defined. States have joined the movement, as with Iowa's Corrections metrics, and diverse initiatives in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Utah. Cities, too, are 'in' -- they may be onto something.
Obstacles, of course, abound. For one thing, we are dealing with Political Parties: one Party seems to pride itself in its rejection of evidence-based anything. Global warning, anyone? And the other Party has a tradition of ignoring any pesky math more complicated than fingers-and-toes. Further, Washington has a facility for co-opting good, new ideas and pretzelizing them into forms unrecognizable to the innovators. Finally, for now, other baseball teams are painfully familiar with the concept of "garbage in/garbage out" you have to choose the Right metrics, and measure them accurately. The process of deciding across-the-aisle about 'what to measure' and 'how' will be a major, ongoing challenge.
Still, there is potential for breakthrough here, and we can always look to the A's to maintain our faith in a Moneyball-type approach, that continues to evolve ahead of the league. So maybe it's worth contemplating what a Beane Administration might look like:
Vice President: Brandon Moss, because you need a motor-mouth.
Chief of Staff: Bob Melvin. Give him the instruments and he'll make sweet music.
UN Ambassador: Coco Crisp. Who doesn't love Coco? He'll disarm the most militant mullah.
Ambassador to Alabama: Josh Donaldson
Secretary of State: Jed Lowrie's wife, already a diplomat.
Secretary of Defense: Josh Reddick. There's no better defender, and no nasty sliders in the Pentagon.
Press Secretary: Ariel Prieto. He has a way of cutting to the chase.
Head of the Fed: Eric Sogard. Nerd power drives monetary policy.
Filibusterer-in-Chief: Ray Fosse. Even his questions go on for hours.
Uncle Sam: Bill King, doppelganger.
Please add your own nominations!