Trump’s picks will have big impact


It’s natural to evaluate Donald Trump’s appointments by whether we agree with the stances of the appointees. But it’s also worth asking how effective an administration those picks will produce.

The most striking feature of many of the selections is their relative lack of experience in traditional politics. There are a lot of ex-generals and a high number with corporate backgrounds, including from the energy sector. Wall Street is well represented, with three people who have worked at Goldman Sachs, among others. President Barack Obama’s picks had stronger educational credentials.

But are those bugs or features for Trump? I think they’re features — signs we will be in for an active four years.

In addition to expertise, an appointee may be picked for some of these reasons:

Ability to command the interest of the public in policy change; ability to influence Congress; ability to think outside the usual Washington “boxes”; ability to reach and motivate the president when necessary.

The unusual backgrounds of many Trump appointees make more sense by these standards. For instance, Trump does not seem to be detail focused or policy oriented, as Obama has been. It’s therefore more important that he can rely on advisers to direct his attention. That means nominating candidates who have credibility with him and who can speak his language, rather than eggheads.

If the political default is not much change in the first place, introducing more variance into the policy process may shake up at least some parts of the status quo.

I’m not suggesting you should agree with the Trump agenda (whatever that might turn out to be), and I am especially worried about his selection of Michael Flynn as national security adviser. But I interpret Trump’s nominations as a sign of an intelligent and strategic process, and his choices may prove surprisingly effective in getting things done. Whether you like it or not.

Tyler Cowen is a Bloomberg View columnist and professor of economics at George Mason University.