I was saddened to read in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago an article about how the federal government is clamping down on business meetings. The Department of Agriculture in particular is telling its employees not to have meetings if they can video conference, and especially, no matter what, not to go to resort towns like Las Vegas for meetings. This, so the government people say, shows respect for the taxpayers.
A few humble thoughts:
The idea of this, the most profligate administration in history by far, saying it is showing restraint by avoiding a few business meetings is like Genghis Khan saying he is a good guy for only pillaging 99 days out of 100. It would be funny if it were not so sad.
Second, it really tells volumes that this administration, with its vaunted smart advisers, thinks a business meeting is a bad, wasteful thing.
Are the meetings of Congress a waste? They are business meetings. Are the meetings of the Supreme Court wasteful? They are business meetings.
Business meetings involving travel are vital business and productivity tools for maximizing knowledge, the essence of human capital. They are the best possible way for new ways of adapting and adopting to be brought to bear. A business meeting is as valuable a business tool as a computer and maybe more so.
Perhaps more to the point, business meetings did not contribute to the credit bubble that caused this recession. Business meetings and travel did not cause the bursting of that bubble.
BUSINESS MEETINGS HAD ZERO TO DO WITH CAUSING THIS RECESSION.
Even more to the point, banning or condemning business meetings will not help us get out of the recession. Instead, this anti-meeting policy gets hotel and airline workers fired, kicks hotel maids and busboys in the teeth, wrecks communities used to working hard to be good hosts.
As to meetings in resorts, the reason to have them is that there are a lot of rooms close to each other with good ways to get together. Often, as in Las Vegas, rooms are inexpensive. Traffic jams and people getting lost do not happen because everyone is under the same roof.
Fighting business meetings is like fighting common sense and progress. The fact that the administration thinks keeping hard working people from getting together to share their experience, strength and hope is just plain sad.
I will say it again. Meetings and business travel did not cause this recession. Kicking the hospitality and travel industry in the face and not allowing smart people to share their intelligence will not do anyone any good at all.