Mind Your Own Business

January 10th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Paul K makes a great point here about the why the skills of business folks might not map onto those needed for government policy: it’s not an obvious fit.  But I’d go further.

We used to hear this complaint all the time when I was working for the administration—“they don’t have a business person running the NEC or Commerce, or something; therefore they don’t know what we need; therefore we don’t like them.”

So I asked a prominent business person–who was formerly a prominent gov’t official–about this and his response both cracked me up and had a ring of truth.  Here’s what he essentially told me:

“What these whiners don’t understand is that if I or someone like me—someone from the business world—were in there right now, we’d be telling these business guys to get lost.  You can’t make them happy and it’s no use trying.  The irony is you’re already doing more for them than I’d advise and true to form, they don’t like you any better for it.”

Now, this guy was a democrat, and his view may not cross party lines.  But it’s an interesting wrinkle.  Maybe you need a business person who has the perspective and clout to tell you when to ignore business people.

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6 comments in reply to "Mind Your Own Business"

  1. jonathan says:

    Same is true of the “states rights, get rid of federal regulation urge”. The dreamers don’t understand they have more power in the federal system. If the Feds don’t regulate, the states will. Want to sell in CA? Have to meet their requirements, not the minimum federal standards. Why wouldn’t IL and NY move to protect themselves. By imposing rules on imports from states with looser environmental and labor laws?

  2. Tom Maguire says:

    “Maybe you need a business person who has the perspective and clout to tell you when to ignore business people.”

    Or, set a thief to catch a thief, to coin a phrase. Of course, you are taking the opposite tack from Krugman and telling us that a businessmen is better equipped to sort out the BS from the business community. Whatever. I’m sure that having a community organizer/law lecturer/autobiographer in the White House is invaluable in filtering the BS from unorganized communities, or other auto-biographers.

  3. Red Planet says:

    Business. Government. Different skill sets, different purposes, different methods.

    Running government like a business makes as much sense as running business like a government.

  4. the buckaroo says:

    …seems the last President with business experience was Hoover. From the HHPL, he’s quoted as saying…the only trouble with capitalism is capitalists, they’re too damned greedy.

  5. save_the_rustbelt says:

    Democrats prefer lawyers and economists. Both groups know everything about everything.

    Hasn’t that worked out swell?

  6. paulo says:

    substitute agriculture for commerce and farmer for business person and you’d have an equivalently valid and correct post.

    funny that…