The Governor’s Mansion can hardly be blamed if it has a fortress mentality these days. Critics abound. Gov. Bobby Jindal is criticized when he leaves the state and criticized even more when he stays home. Welcome to the 21st-century world of politics, governor, where up is down and down is up!

Pundits don’t help matters by confounding what are essentially two separable arguments: the first regarding the quantity and quality of inputs, and the second the quantity and quality of outputs — or in plainer language, effort versus result.

Protesters object that the governor’s time spent outside the state detracts from his ability to solve state problems, which are legion. In other words, he is judged by the quantity and quality of his input. This affectation does not make for success in the business world and was rejected by economists long ago. Probably, it is a remnant of the hourly wage system that shifted payroll practice away from piece-work wages directly linked to individual output.

As far as ideas go, it has limited application. Does a teacher grade homework (if it still exists!) by the amount of time a student spends executing the assignment or by the results turned in? Are biologists evaluated by the hours they spend in the laboratory or by the results they produce? Is an attorney valued by how many hours she spends in the office or by her winning trial record? Did the public reward Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in proportion to the amount of time they spent conceiving and tinkering with new ideas or by their resulting innovations?

The questions practically answer themselves. Yet, despite the fact that there is an obvious connection between effort and result, the ability to produce desirable results from a given effort varies widely among individuals, making obsessive focus on inputs unwise and unhelpful. So please, dear Advocate, less harping on. Jindal’s out-of-state forays and more emphasis on the results of his governance … at least over the things he can control.

Robert Hebert

economist

Baton Rouge