by Zeineb Bouraoui (3A)
Romney says running government like a business is important; as a self-described businessman, he believes that he’s the most qualified to run the country since he devoted his entire career to government agencies or management enterprises such as Bain&Company.
His vision of politics comes as no surprise. In 2007, he affirmed to the Wall Street Journal that: “I would probably have super-cabinet secretaries, or a least some structure that McKinsey would guide me to put in place…I’m not kidding; I probably would bring in McKinsey…I would consult with the best and the brightest minds, whether it’s Mckinsey, Bain, BCG or Jack Welsh.” But a quick look at Romney’s career would immediately demonstrate how the idea of running the government like we would run a business is aberrant.
Romney earned a joint Juris Doctor and master of Business Administration from Harvard University; he led the spin-off private equity company Bain Capital that became one of the most highly profitable firms in the country. His entire career is based on meritocracy, accumulation of wealth and yes, professional success. But how many American citizens does such a career represent? And even if they wanted to, how many Americans could possibly achieve that? The US president is supposed to represent the nation as a whole, including the wealthier and the less fortunate among it. We can then understand that running a government like a business based on meritocracy is highly dangerous for the future of the US as it pushes aside a very important portion of the population: the poorest, or simply those whose goal is not wealth accumulation or business success.
According to Seth Market, a political scientist at the University of Denver, “to say that governments should run like businesses is to reveal ignorance about what either governments or businesses—or both – are”. Governments and businesses are inherently different.
One of Romney’s most important achievements is probably saving Bain & Company from the financial collapse they were facing in the 1990s. If he managed to do so, it is thanks to a specific strategy, characteristic to how businesses are supposed to be run. An executive board determines the matters of primary importance and identifies the best ways to solve these, in a small committee environment. Solving issues that way is faster but also autocratic, as Erskine Bowles affirms. He says: “You and your team make a decision, get a buy-in from the board, everybody pulls together, and you get it done. But in politics, you have 535 directors, and they manage every line item in your budget. if they don’t approve, you can’t get it done. And even if they do approve, it takes forever.” Thereby, when Romney says he wants to run the government as a business, he basically says that he will run it an autocratic way.
Also, private business can be very successful and innovative, but some of them fail. Running a government the same way as running a private business is accepting the eventuality of failing because a business environment is risky. This cannot be a possibility for a government agency. First, because government agencies are unprofitable enterprises that provide goods that have been defined as people’s rights to have access to. Second, because failure in a government agency means losing tax payers’ money, which cannot be accepted, even if that compromises the innovation or the efficiency that usually comes with private business operation.
Romney’s entire career was built on the primary goal of any business enterprise: profit maximization. He was successful. Indeed, the fortune he earned thanks to his business career is estimated at 190-250 million USD. But placing profit maximization at the basis of a government agency performance is not possible, primary because government agencies are not confronted to market competition. A government agency is a monopoly: it is the one and only entity that creates rules and legislations and ensures everyone respects them, whether they would like to or not. Business on the other hand, gives you the choice as to whether to adhere to them and follow their rules, or to work elsewhere.
Finally, dealing with a government agency or with a business is getting confronted to a completely different environment. “In business, there is a pretty stable group of factors—employees, shareholders, customers, competitors,” says Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. “In politics, there are way more: Congress, the public, the press, advocacy groups, and political parties, to name a few; and leaders have little or no control over any of them.” Thus, controlling a government agency is much harder than controlling a business.
In short, with this declaration, Romney served Obama’s campaign. His ineptitude has turned the tide in his adversary’s favor considering how aberrant his view of politics is, ignoring all of the contradictions that comes with it.