Mitt Romney was a businessman. So what?

So, sure, Mitt Romney did the thing everyone expected him to do in the New Hampshire primary by winning a resounding 39.3% of the vote on Tuesday. Probably just as expected was Ron Paul’s strong gains over four years ago, though it probably wasn’t expected that he’d place second well ahead of Huntsman, – 22.9% to 16.9% respectively – who placed all of his campaign eggs in New Hampshire’s basket. Despite protestrations from the also-rans of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry we’re probably* looking at Romney-Obama general election matchup. With that being said is everyone ready for the avalance of Romney articles? I hope so, because I’m starting with something here that I’ve only causually wondered in the past. Why do so many people believe that buisnesspeople are particularly adept at understanding or applying economic policy?

It’s one of the basic narrative foundations for someone like Romney. He was a successful businessman, profitable in the private sector and savior of the Winter Olympics! We’re then supposed to take a certain type of cognitive step in applying these facts – infering an inheretent talent for the academic-based category of macroeconomic policy. I’m sorry, I’m just not sure I see the connection. Neither does Paul Krugman (my emphasis in bold):

For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

Jonathan Bernstein uses the occasion to retell an analogy about what it means to “know” baseball, and ends with this point (my emphasis in bold):

[…] there’s no particular reason to believe that knowing what Romney knows about how to turn around a poorly performing business has anything at all to do with knowing how to make an overall economy perform well. Just as it’s really not important to know the footwork of how to turn a double play if you want to know whether Joe Morgan was better than Ryne Sandberg, or how it feels to be in the clubhouse isn’t important (or at best is only one very small piece of the puzzle) if you want to know how signing Prince Fielder will affect franchise revenue over the life of the contract. I could see an argument that Romney’s skills might be particularly important for managing the executive branch well, but for getting unemployment down and income up? What Romney claims to know just doesn’t seem very relevant to that part of the job.

I was listening to NPR on Wednesday and they interviewed several voters exiting the polls who, after voting for Romney, explained that they did so because they thought he was a good candidate to “fix” the economy. Of course such sentiments fall under the umbrella of the phenomena sometimes referred to as “The Cult of the Presidency.” Yet I would presume they felt that way because, after all, he was a successful businessman. Because he’s so knowledgable about business, and “knowing” that the office of the Presidency has a panel of steam-punk emerald dials and gem-red buttons to “run” the economy, he must be the perfect fit!

Good Gravy Marie…

*see what I did there? Always leave the door cracked open…


4 responses to “Mitt Romney was a businessman. So what?

  1. Pingback: Mitt Romney and a Nation of Sin | Punditocracy·

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