A Prudent Man

Most of us are to a significant degree shaped by life experiences and I am no exception. My degree is in management and my first real job was in banking. Along the way I learned The Prudent Man Principle. (Yes, that is all a conservative background for a liberal.) Let’s explore.

The “nickel” definition of The Prudent Man Principle is that you were expected to take at least the care that a prudent man (it was very sexist back then) would be expected to exercise. Law professors could expound on this for hours but we are not charging tuition or giving tests here.

Now let’s apply this to President Trump in the case of coronagate. In the wake of the Ebola crisis President Obama left in place an infrastructure for a rapid response to a pandemic. Trump disassembled it because it cost money.

It may be somewhat difficult to envision this on a national scale so let’s look at it as a local government issue. Let’s say some old incompetent guy gets elected mayor to satisfy his ego and provide an avenue to skim some money. As he looks at the city’s expenses he notices that a lot of money is spent maintaining a fire department and there hasn’t been a fire in the city for a few years. He decides to disband the fire department to save some money that he passes along to his buddies as part of a tax cut. I won’t insult your intelligence by going any further. This would certainly not be the action we would expect a prudent man to take. In fact it is more like the action of a madman.

This is outside of coronagate but while we are exploring a tax cut; if the mayor not only used the “savings” from closing the fire department but borrowed a huge sum of money to make the tax cut even larger would that stay within The Prudent Man Principle? I think not!

Many things in life require specific knowledge and expertise. I often joke that the biggest lesson you learn in management school is to hire/delegate to qualified people. I’m not sure what Trump is an expert in but epidemiology is certainly not one of the areas. Yet he consistently has overridden the recommendations of the experts. That is definitely not the action of a prudent man.

The first step in problem solving is to acknowledge its existence. The classic example is that you can’t resolve your drinking problem despite the fact it is causing chaos in your life if you continue to deny it. If you recall Trump’s initial press event on this matter he said it was very small and would be down to zero in a matter of days. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. The expectation of exponential growth in the short run would be the conclusion of a prudent man.

Going a bit further back on that path America has knowledge of the coronavirus outbreak back in December and the Trump administration did basically nothing. That would be like the mayor of a Michigan city waiting for the first flakes to appear on their front lawn before they gave snow removal a thought.

The more senior the manager the more dependent they become on data. (Is there any more senior manager than the President of the United States?) There are various examples of the Trump administration willfully suppressing the collection, assembly and reporting of data so they can remain in a state of ignorance induced bliss.

Had I repeatedly acted in such an imprudent manner while making decisions for the bank (in a very junior position) I would have expected to be terminated. Americans have the opportunity to terminate Trump in November and that would be a prudent decision on the part of the electorate.

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