Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Sleepover Trial Balloon

GoofGirl taught me something last night.  One of my areas of study in my occasionally attended to day job is bureaucratic politics.  GoofGirl helped me understand a key concept in how policy-makers advance positions and conduct their internecine warfare.

Derecho has deprived much of the East Coast of power.  Thankfully, we got our power back a few days ago and were happy to have another family over who was not similarly blessed.  They have a son who is a long-time buddy of GoofGirl.  Oddly, they have partial power – when they turn on some appliances, their neighbors lose power.  I’m not sure anyone really understands electricity.

GoofGirl and her friend decided that he should sleepover (they are 8 so boy-girl sleepover is no issue at all).  So the little boy asked his parents if this was ok.

His parents noted that he had not been invited.

But GoofGirl had invited him! he replied.   

Of course GoofGirl is not authorized to make such invitations without our approval.  However, by making the invitation, her friend could then ask (and possible obtain) permission and thus boxing MamaGoof and I into either saying yes or being the worst parents ever.

It was a brilliant trial balloon and a wonderful illustration of how bureaucratic infighters maneuver people to commit to a position, when they themselves don’t have the authority to commit to it – but can then leverage that commitment (achieved under ambiguous circumstances) with their own higher-ups for further commitment.

Believe it or not, that kind of thing happens in DC all the time.

Morton Halperin couldn’t have demonstrated it any better and clearly GoofGirl has a fine future in the upper reaches on a future administration.

Oh, and by the way, we parents stepped in and shut down the sleepover.  We rule by fiat.  But we were impressed by the effort.

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