The Millionaire Next Door

Political Leaders Need to be “Certified”

Most professions in this country certify their members.  After rigorous training, for example, accountants who wish to qualify as being “certified,” must pass the CPA exam.  Lawyers who practice law are required to pass the bar exam.  And so on.   But there are two professions that require no certification: politicians and journalists, both of whom have a major influence on our economy and society in general.  It is astonishing to me that the people within these two groups are not required to prove their competency at least in part by being formally trained in several primary subjects. 

At a very minimum those who obtain the certified professional politicians [CPP] classification should take college level course work in at least two areas of training.  First, they should be required to complete successfully courses in basic business finance and accounting as well as public finance.  They should also be required to complete courses in basic mathematical statistics, probability theory and sampling methods.  

When our political leaders continue to spend money that our government does not have one has to question their rationale.  Could it be that they are just ignorant of business fundamentals, especially finance, because of most of them hold degrees in liberal arts and/or law?  Oftentimes, you will hear the echoes of seasoned business professionals who suggest that “those in Washington” lack the knowledge to run any type of organization successfully. But what if the CPPs would continue to make the same mistakes?  Then they would not be able to plead ignornance.   Easier to plead guilty to pandering to the ever increasing number of voters who demand more from our government than they contribute to our economy.

Also politicians with the CPP certification might be more hesitant to say, for example, “the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes.”  Looking at the real numbers even those with the most elementary training in statistics would realize that just the opposite is true.  Come to think of it maybe all of our students, even at the high school level, should be required to complete at least one course in mathematical statistics.  It is very easy to deceive people who are not trained to look past the rhetoric and to look at the objective facts.

In a future blog, I will highlight why journalists especially need to be certified.

8 thoughts on “Political Leaders Need to be “Certified””

  1. So, your solution to sloppy journalism is to… have a certification program that is administered/protected by state governments, which will (presumably, since your modeling law and accountancy) not allow unlicensed practitioners in the field. So, this means that we’ll allow state government to decide who may report on the government, and who may not; and YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA?

    Furthermore, you would like the people currently in power to certify which candidates people may or may not vote for; and YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD IDEA!

    Also, I think there are some laws already on the books that will have to be superseded, most specifically Article I of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States. Good luck with those amendments.

  2. Excellent ideas. I have been encouraging my teen children to choose statistics & business math courses when choosing electives in high school. If these basic courses were requirements of graduating HS then we could be assured each candidate atleast had an elementary understanding so long as they earned a highschool diploma or GED.

  3. Oh – the smart guys are there. Federal Reserve gurus, Treasurey Dept gurus, Congressional Budget office gurus, the majority of which have had or perhaps even taught all the courses in finance/statistics/ etc, etc. But they fail to come to a united consensus focusing on the proper purdent economic path for our country. Seems that personal agenda’s trump fiscal responsiblilty irregardlss of straight A’s in the mentioned business courses.

    Speaking of Lawyers – especially those who pursue political paths…. sadly they seem to be among the most arrogant, self righteous, egotistical people on the planet. No one knows as much as they do. Common sense,
    open mindedness, spend less than you earn, prudent judgment, etc etc are out the window. Their attitude is one of ‘worship me’ ‘elect me’ ‘I’ll be your savior’ because I am a Lawyer and that means that I know the constitution and I’m a lot smarter and know more that you lower class people out there.

    Journalists only comunicate what they want you to hear. Rarely is the full accurate story presented. My brother recently retired as chief deputy of a rather large law enforcement agency. After 10 years of being misquoted time after time after time, he refused to give interviews to the media/journalists that came seeking a story. Again – reporters personal agendas prevented accurate news reporting.

    So many of us share Dr Stanleys frustration..!!

  4. Cor, I’m not sure how you can claim the Constitution would be violated by requiring a certification?

    Besides, what Dr. Stanley may be referring to is self governance by the profession, not government licensing. This happens in many industries, and is often much better and more rigorous than state/federal licensing.

    But, Dr. Stanley, I believe politicians would use the certification to further politicize their comments. “My colleague over here isn’t certified, and doesn’t know that the rich don’t pay their fair share.” The politician can use subjective comments like this without any risk of retribution under whatever rules exist for the certification. This is often how politicians get elected: “I will do xyz for you.” That promise usually means more expenses the government doesn’t have, thus the run away spending. Since they can throw subjective comments around all day long, the certification becomes meaningless. There would be no fiduciary responsibility to be accurate, fair, and represent their constituents.

    It’s an intriguing idea, but one that I don’t believe will work. For journalists, there is more possibility, especially with a trade association issuing anti-bias rules and such. But, politicians work off deceit.

  5. Cool stuff. I am amazed that kids are required to spend 12 years in school and no emphasis is placed on finance, budgeting, job interview skills, communication and relationships, networking and sales. All of these are basic skills that all of us (however poorly) have to do throughout our lives.

    But would a GDP based economy benefit from a money-wise constituency?

    Thanks for your blog and books, very good reads!

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