Nov 052012

A while back, a friend of mine on Facebook re-posted some comments touting Mitt Romney’s past work in business as a reason to vote for him for President. I’ve seen that strain of argument quite frequently, particularly from conservatives. For example, I saw this in my feed just this morning:

These arguments confuse the fact of Romney being a capitalist with his being pro-capitalist. Obviously, a person can be the former without being the latter. That happens because Marx was wrong: ideology is not determined by a person’s role in the economy.

Here’s what I wrote in reply to my friend:

I wish that good businessmen made good politicians. But alas, it’s just not true — in theory or in practice.

Time and again, we’ve seen businessmen fail miserably as politicians. (Bloomberg, anyone?) The problem is that earning profits within a given political system is very, very different from managing that political system. The purpose of the state is to protect rights, not earn profits, and a businessman is no more likely to understand and respect rights than any other random joe on the street.

Hence, “turning a business around” is a wholly different kind of activity than “turning the country around.” A person’s success in business doesn’t suggest in any way, shape, or form that they’ll do good in politics — as Romney’s record as governor shows in spades, particularly in health care. The man is the proud grandfather of ObamaCare.

It’s a bit odd to me that the argument persists, given that we’ve already got so many counter-examples. It’s completely bizarre to use it with a statist like Romney.

If you want to vote for Mittens, by all means, go forth and vote for Mittens. However, I’d recommend doing so based on his track record in politics, not in business.

  • Roger Zimmerman

    I agree that “track record in business” is not a reason to vote for someone. On the other hand, “having been involved in voluntary trade” at some point in one’s adult life is clearly a reasonable qualification, in that it might give one some insight into the degree to which government unjustly interferes with that noble calling. See, for example, George McGovern, who discovered some of this injustice after he was a politician, and spoke of how it would have changed his policy views to some extent.

    BTW, I just voted in Massachusetts, for Gary Johnson, Scott Brown, and Sean Bielatt (the last running against Joseph Kennedy III). I only feel “positive” about the first. The other two were anti-negatives.

  • James

    A friend and I had a discussion about this on Facebook recently. If Romney had campaigned on a platform of ballancing the budget, I can see that business experience would be a valuable criteria–after all, a business that operates at a loss for an extended period of time goes under rather quickly, so they have to have some understanding of how to ballance a budget. That said, neither candidate proposed anything like that, so it’s a moot point, sadly.

  • Anthony

    Eh, track record in politics. Look if you’re part of the 47% who pay no income taxes, you could have voted for Romney, who will probably raise your taxes (though he doesn’t admit it), for Johnson, who will probably raise your taxes (and he admits it), for Obama, who will probably not raise your taxes, or for none of them.

    • Anthony

      Personally I couldn’t stomach voting for Obama. But I’m not going to vote for someone who wants to raise my taxes, whether he admits it on his website or only alludes to it at private fundraising dinners. So I chose to vote for none of them.

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