Sunday, July 7, 2013

People Want Government to Play Moneyball

John Bridgeland and Peter Orszag made a splash with a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly suggesting that the government should learn to play “moneyball.” The term is derived from the way baseball franchises use big data and clever analysis to find the best players for their money, but in the context of government, this means taking the same approach to finding the best bang for the public’s buck. As Bridgeland and Orszag put it:
Based on our rough calculations, less than $1 out of every $100 of government spending is backed by even the most basic evidence that the money is being spent wisely. As former officials in the administrations of Barack Obama (Peter Orszag) and George W. Bush (John Bridgeland), we were flabbergasted by how blindly the federal government spends. In other types of American enterprise, spending decisions are usually quite sophisticated, and are rapidly becoming more so: baseball’s transformation into “moneyball” is one example. But the federal government—where spending decisions are largely based on good intentions, inertia, hunches, partisan politics, and personal relationships—has missed this wave.
How would the public feel about such an approach? Bridgeland and Orszag are on firm ground here according to a 2010 survey I helped conduct for Doing What Works, the Center for American Progress’s government reform project. According to the survey, there is strong support, especially among the younger generation and minorities but also among independents, moderates, and unlikely constituencies like Republicans and tea party supporters, for a government reform plan organized around three core elements: 
1. Eliminating inefficient programs and redirecting support to the most cost-efficient programs
2. Carefully evaluating the performance of individual programs and agencies, and making that information available to the public
3. Using more modern management methods and information technologies...


  1. "unlikely constituencies like Republicans and tea party supporters"

    While I agree with your article, the bias against the right in the above sentence speaks volumes. The TEA in Tea party stands for "taxed enough already", meaning they want less spending, so it stands to reason for why they would be for such a reform.

    That said, I am not a TEA Party guy, I went to a few Tea party events in the past, but it was hijacked, so I moved on.

    1. This article was written by Think Progress which, as its name implies, is a left-of-center news source. I couldn't tell you why they categorized the GOP and Tea Party as "unlikely constituencies" other than to say that when it comes to sensible ideas like the one mentioned here, the Tea Party doesn't have the best track record (which is not to say that their counterparts on the left have a spotless record).