Sunday, February 19, 2012

Llewellyn King: What Makes a President?

NOTE: Llewellyn King's column from February 16, 2012 on the notions that business people are superior choices to run the Country than politicians and that free markets and national interest don't always equate with one another. Good read...


Come walk in the garden where the fallacies grow. Today, we’ll examine two varieties that are enjoying strong growth: the businessus presidentus and the marketus perfectus.  

The first fallacy (businessus presidentus) is that a business person, presumably Mitt Romney, is better equipped to run the government than a professional politician. This is an idea as old as anything in the garden. The supposition is that business people are organized, understand the economy and are less prone make decisions based on politics. It also suggests that as a species they are innovative, strategic thinkers and have an acquired understanding people.  

Well let's see: The purpose of business is business; in short, to make money. Romantics of the right like to credit it with virtues it doesn't have and doesn't want.  Business is about the numbers, and making the numbers. It’s not intrinsically wise, nor is it necessarily more inventive than government. 

It’s true that business innovates; but only when it’s forced to by competition and disruptive technologies. Coca-Cola was supposed to be the smartest company on the planet until it introduced New Coke and had to beat an ignominious retreat. Many old and new businesses simply can't change fast enough. We’ve seen the demise of Kodak, Polaroid and Borders and the emasculation of Western Union. The American car companies had to be rescued — especially General Motors which was a model of management structure, celebrated by Peter Drucker, until its management choked the life out of it.

If Romney has the skills to be a good president, he didn't learn them in the wheeler-dealer world of investment banking – Remember Lehman? – but rather in the statehouse in Boston. By and large, business success prepares a man or a woman for retirement and maybe volunteer work, not political office. 

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