Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
27

Essays Coincidental

"Romney is going to have to define a vision of modern capitalism. He’s going to have to separate his vision from the scandals and excesses we’ve seen over the last few years. He needs to define the kind of capitalist he is and why the country needs his virtues. Let’s face it, he’s not a heroic entrepreneur. He’s an efficiency expert. It has been the business of his life to take companies that were mediocre and sclerotic and try to make them efficient and dynamic. It has been his job to be the corporate version of a personal trainer: take people who are puffy and self-indulgent and whip them into shape."
That's David Brooks. Hmm. A personal trainer like Tim Ferriss? (I swear it often seems like the accidental pairings of the Times op-ed page conspire to set David Brooks up for ridicule, right?) Defending modern capitalism on a philosophical level to the American public seems like a very tough task at the moment. (I swear sometimes it seems that managers of the Obama campaign are intentionally setting Mitt Romney up for ridicule, right?) Here's what Romney should do: Just explain to everyone how capitalism is epitomized by the hero of The Fountainhead, Howard Roark—the egomaniacal rapist you just can't help but fall in love with.

27 Comments / Post A Comment

jfruh (#713)

You can't run a country like a business because you can't fire citizens, the way you can fire underperforming or ineffiicent employees, and you can't provide services to only the most profitable citizens, the way you can sell to only the most profitable customers.

All politicians, feel free to use that as a one-sentence rebuttal in debates with opponents who promise to "run government like a business."

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@jfruh It's worse when they claim we should run the whole economy "like a business." That would essentially be a business with itself as its only customer…

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@jfruh – Sure you can. I'm promoting you to a new position inside the Jessup state pen and your previous position of "guy living in your house" is being outsourced to Mexico.

atipofthehat (#797)

@jfruh

The Republican view of this country's personnel has just that tone: a boss talking down to a nervous employee.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@jfruh I think conservatives want the government, not the "country", to be run more like a business which would mean that there is at least a good faith attempt to run it efficiently. No one wants to fire citizens, but it would be nice if the government could fire non-perfoming employees more easily and occasionally reduce the size of certain departments from time to time. Also, some sense of market discipline would work as a check on the Leviathan's eternal expansion.

jfruh (#713)

@Lockheed Ventura Staffing is one issue, but the government doesn't provide products to customers, it provides services to citizens. Apple can decide to only sell computers to people who can pay for premium computers. But the government can't decide to only build roads for rich people. Actually, that's not true, they totally can decide to do that, but it's a shitty way to run a country.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Lockheed Ventura Yeah, because it's spending way too much money on government's regulation responsibilities that brought the country to the brink of the economic collapse, right?

C'mon, nobody is buying that shit, but of course, the conservatives have to keep trying to sell it because they can't come out and outright demand that the people who lose in their little rigged game they are trying to pass for "capitalism" be either stripped of their citizenship and tossed over the border fence, or forced into servitude or slavery (now there's the job market for all you unemployment benefits queens out there!)

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@Niko Bellic The US government is bankrupt and its profligate ways are simply unsustainable. There is no easy way out of our crisis, but certainly part of the solution is a smaller more efficient government. This is not a controversial position.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@Lockheed Ventura "Bankrupt" means you are unable to pay for the things you need to, not unwilling.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Lockheed Ventura The government is "bankrupt" for two reasons:
1. Its money supply has been choked off by underregulated financial industry and tax evasion by the biggest corporations
2. By exorbitant military spending, most of which goes to invasion of foreign countries, military aid to those who help us in that, and the related expenses on "homeland security".

For anyone to even mention such minor things as being able to fire government workers or limit social services as somehow being even remotely a part of a solution worth even discussing is simply preposterous and an insult to everyone's intelligence.

Danzig! (#5,318)

@jfruh Supply-side capitalists are generally unwilling to concede that someone would be fired for illegitimate reasons – the self-justifying ecosystem of the Market clearly makes that impossible, because then those qualified people would be hired by your competitors and you would be felled by your own petty hubris?!?!

But no, conservatives have no trouble at all making is/ought judgments in a laissez-faire system. Free markets are unerringly just, WYSIWYG, etc. If anything, they would claim that someone not getting what they deserve is a function of government doing what it's not supposed to.

mishaps (#5,779)

It is sad that it took Frank Bruni to call Tim Ferriss out for the asshole that he is.

deepomega (#1,720)

A few things.

1. There is a major counternarrative on the right that the 2008 economic meltdown was the result of government interference in the housing market. Combine that with the hugely unpopular TARP and you're looking at a big chunk of the population that is VERY amenable to capitalism, since it's being posed as the opposite to government malfeasance. Not defending their view, but the idea that everyone in America agrees that capitalism caused the economy to collapse is narrow.
2. Howard Roark was more megalomaniacal than egomaniacal.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

@deepomega Let's get the word out. Maybe we can frame it like it's an introduction at a rehabilitation meeting: "Hi, my name is Recession-bogged-U.S. and my own economic system is a problem."

Dave Bry (#422)

1) Oh, yes. I was more laughing at the difficulty of explaining modern capitalism—where it's come to, the complexities of high finance—on a philosophical level. I am impressed with how Obama's team has pushed Romney into this corner. That we've gotten to the point where Brooks has to recommend such a thing. I know the country remains very amenable to capitalism. I'm not sure they're amenable to hear out a philosophical argument about it.
2) Thanks.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@deepomega – hugely unpopular (but highly successful) TARP

deepomega (#1,720)

@Ham Snadwich Define "successful."

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@Ham Snadwich Please, how the hell was TARP successful? If by successful, you mean enriching the 1% and papering over (temporarily) the gross fraud at the heart of America's capital markets, then yes, it was successful.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@deepomega – Kept most banks from failing and on track to break even sounds reasonably successful to me. Was there some alternative where we allowed those banks to fail without completely killing the economy?

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@Ham Snadwich Why would pricing assets to market realities "kill" the economy? It might "kill" bonuses for a year or two and might "kill" a failed overleveraged business model, but in the long run would lead to a market where asset prices reflect income and market demand. If we are going to spend billions (in reality TRILLIONS) in a financial crisis, the money would have been better spent writing down mortgages than simply shifting the high risk liabilities onto the public balance sheet.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

@Lockheed Ventura ""liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.""

-Andrew Mellon, treasury secretary to Herbert Hoover.

I know you are too far over the hill to entertain recognize facts that contradict your rhetoric, but I would hate to think others might be influenced by this revisionist pablum.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_W._Mellon#Great_Depression

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

@Lockheed Ventura – "a market where asset prices reflect income and market demand" = lots of people losing their jobs and houses

Nevadasabigstate (#236,042)

I will explain for Romney.

In 1900, 41% of the labor force was involved in agriculture.
Today it is 1.4%.
Food is so cheap 34% of the country is overweight.
Jobs come and go.
Government jobs only come.

stuffisthings (#1,352)

@Nevadasabigstate I'm confused — so Mitt Romney invented tractors and fertilizer? Also, I imagine some of the 600,000 government workers who lost their jobs since 2008 would disagree with your last statement.

Danzig! (#5,318)

@stuffisthings Government jobs fall easily to funding cuts, but middle managers who don't turn over with new elections (so executive agency officeholders, essentially, what most would term "bureaucrats") are notoriously difficult to fire for any other reason, mostly because of safeguards put in place to keep qualified folks in office and prevent managers from "stacking the deck", so to speak, when they meet resistance from staff. In a lot of cases it takes so much effort and time to get someone fired that it's just not worth it. Hence the reputation of agencies like your local DMV.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

I think the idea that government should run like a business relies on a lot of lazy stereotypes about the way both governments and businesses are run. On one hand there's the idea that government is full of lazy, unfirable employees and there's no measurement of performance. On the other businesses are all ultra-efficient profit making machines that never waste a dime and always deliver exactly what the customer wants. Neither is really true, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement in both sectors.

Ham Snadwich (#11,842)

Also, 50% of small businesses fail in the first five years. Should we apply this same metric to government? Of course not.

Post a Comment