Why Do We Love Advising Presidents-Elect?

Everyone seems to have advice for President-elect Obama these days: physicists, economists, Willie Nelson — even Freakonomics commenters are getting in on the act.

Why are we always so eager to advise new presidents? Rarely do new congressmen, major league sports coaches, and corporate executives generate the same flood of unsolicited advice. So why are we so eager to share our ideas about how the president should govern, especially considering he might not even be able to carry them out?

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Ted says:

    You’re right about congressmen and corporate executives, but you’re way off on sports coaches. Turn on sports talk radio some time. The amount of unsolicited advice people want to give their teams’ coaches completely dwarfs what Obama’s getting.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. posted by a consultant says:

    1. Running on a platform of “Change” invites suggestions.

    2. Whom do you know that thinks (s)he is not smarter than average?

    3. Those fixated on one particular item (pollution, abortion, jobs, financial ruin brought on by Bush, Obama’s dog choice) often believe (or hope) it to be at the top of the agenda.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. pyromanfo says:

    President Elect Barack Obama should look into this phenomenon immediately upon taking office.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. FactChecker says:

    Technically, he’s not the president-elect until the Electoral College convenes on Dec 15. So, all this talk about advising the president-elect is entirely premature…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. AaronS says:

    I’m so glad you asked, for I know the answer.

    Very simply, we all feel we have great ideas that, for one reason or another, never get a hearing outside the barber shop or coffee shop.

    Oddly enough, it wasn’t 10 minutes ago that I was trying to get with a very influential man in my company in order to ask him how I get my ideas heard.

    I have ideas all the time (as does everyone, I imagine). Yet there is often no real place to get them heard–or at least no where that can actually put those ideas in motion.

    For instance, I have a great idea on fixing Social Security. Simple, elegant, something everyone could understand, and would save us billions…but just where do I go with that where I don’t just get a form letter in return?

    I write to my Senators and Congressmen…and I have YET to get anything other than a boilerplate letter in return.

    We are not heard. Only those with the money or connections get to places where they can be heard. That’s why celebrities who may know far, far less than you or I on some matter are breathlessly brought before Congress to testify to the world…while our ideas lie dormant, becoming ever more stagnant because we don’t know how to take the next step.

    Give us one hour with Obama and we’ll give him ideas that can transform America’s future for the better.

    Alas, it ain’t gonna happen….

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Eric M. Jones says:

    Dear President -Elect Barack Obama,

    I have absolutely no advice for you. So I hope you are not waiting for me to give you any. The only corner of the universe I can clean up is right here. I voted for you so you can try to fix some of the mess. Good luck.

    Yours truly,

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. JH says:

    I agree with Ted regarding coaches. However, it’s mainly the guys at the top that get all the unsolicited advice. You don’t hear many people saying, “You know, what the Redskins tight ends coach really needs to do is….” No, people offer their opinion about the head coach and sometimes the offensive and defensive coordinators. Why? Because we think we know a lot about football. We mask this by offering general solutions to the guys at the top. We don’t offer advice to the tight ends coach because, really, what the heck do we know about such a specialized job? It’s easier to say, “Jim Zorn really needs to get Chris Cooley more involved in the red zone,” than it is to say, “The position coach really needs to work with Cooley on the precision of his route running and using his body to find the open spots in the defense around the goalline.” (I made all that up. I really have no idea why Cooley only has one TD this year because, well, I’m not a tight ends coach.)

    Similarly, people have general ideas about running a country, foreign policy, and economic policy. Every four years, people seem to have an opinion on everything, including topics they’ve only read one short article about.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Evan says:

    Everyone thinks that they are smarter than the person in power above them. Well, it doesn’t get much more powerful than the President.

    As Ted pointed out, we are ALWAYS trying to give sports coaches pointers.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0