Herbert E. Meyer, who served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence, and vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, offers insight into the inner workings of the Reagan Administration. In addition, Meyer offers some encouraging news about how millions of people around the world are emerging from poverty at a rapid rate. (For the first part of my interview with Meyer, click here.)
- The first rule of organizations is that first-rate executives hire first-rate executives. President Reagan was a first-rate executive and he brought in a varsity team: Bill Casey, at the CIA, Cap Weinberger at defense, Jeanne Kirkpatrick at the UN. And they hired first rate executives themselves.
- Reagan understood something that a lot of CEOs don’t. To accomplish your objective you’re going to have to work very closely with people you’re not very comfortable with and don’t want to hang out with. You don’t have to want to hang out with these people to work closely with them. He had his own friends. In contrast, and I don’t want to overstate this, but the George W. Bush people were a bunch of frat boys. It was as if they thought that ‘If I’m not comfortable with you, I don’t want you here.’ They were good guys, but they were all the same. You see this mistake in corporations all the time.
- You hire the talent and point them to the objective and get out of the way.
- You remember that people have different skills. President Reagan, for example, could do things no one else could do, whether it was standing in front of the Berlin Wall and telling Gorbachev to tear it down…but he couldn’t name all 25 members of the Politburo. He probably couldn’t name all the members of his cabinet, and he saw no reason to clutter up his mind with such detail.
- He would not make any decisions which could be made by anybody else. He would only make those decisions which only he could make.
- The chief executive shouldn’t be that busy. When I see a chief executive who’s buried in paperwork at ten o’clock every night, that guy doesn’t have a grip on it. The CEO should be sitting there with his feet up on the desk thinking, figuring out strategically what to do next.
The Next Big World Event No One is Paying Attention To
- When you stand back from all the yelling and the screaming…you can see what I believe is the most important trend in the world…The world is emerging from poverty fast. This is the biggest under-reported news story in the world.
- By 1980 or 1990 about two billion human beings were out of poverty, since then another half billion have crossed the line out of poverty; a lot of them in India and China. In the last six years 20 million Brazilians have emerged. When you put all these numbers together…each year between fifty and one hundred million human beings are leaving poverty behind.
- If we can continue this trend within our lifetimes, and certainly within our children’s lifetimes, the overwhelming majority of human beings will no longer be poor. This is the biggest thing that’s happened in the entire world.
- By the way it’s going to be a five billion-person middle class. This will become the most powerful force in the world. Their demand for our goods and services will set off an economic boom…I believe that we’re heading for not just a sonic boom, but maybe a supersonic boom.
I’m not sure I agree with everything Herb Meyer said in our discussion, which is why I challenged him a little bit on his optimism about the pace, or even the possibility, of Islam’s reconciliation with modernity. You can listen to the discussion and draw your own conclusions. For the real unfiltered interview, click on this link.
But I came away from this with the sense that through Herb, we were being given the opportunity to go back in time and sit in the front row seats at one of the great moments in history (the winning blow which would lead to the dissolution of the USSR) and with one of the great men of history (Ronald Reagan). I also think that he’s right about the emergence of a global middle class: it’s coming, it’s huge, it’s real and it’s spectacular. And investors and entrepreneurs who tap into it will be tapping into the greatest wealth creation event in human history.
However, human nature has not been abolished. The boom won’t happen everywhere; it will happen in the parts of the world which embrace freedom, and it won’t come easily. Supersonic boom? Perhaps, but geographically lumpy and chronologically lumpy and, given recent events, not centered in the United States.