The GOP has always been the party by, for and of business. It was GOPer Calvin Coolidge (a successful president who, incidentally, was not a businessman) who claimed that “the business of America is business.”  Appropriately, this year, Missourians have the opportunity to vote for GOP businessmen for president, governor and the senate in the persons of Mitt Romney, Dave Spence, and John Brunner respectively.  All are running on the claim that their business successes means they will be good leaders.

Stop and think, though, about the records of most businessmen who have attained high political office.  Remember Herbert Hoover, a very successful businessman who was a disaster as president? Add to the mix Bush pere and fil, both of whom were more (George H.W.) or less (George W.) successful businessmen and more (George W.) or less (George H.W.) disastrous presidents and tell me if you still think that the formula is failsafe. While you’re at it, you can ask Floridians how they’re doing with their governor, ex-businessman Rick Scott – although, to be fair, it’s hard to say that the head of a company that pled guilty to fourteen felonies was a successful businessman exactly. According to at least one journalist who has examined the prior careers of past presidents:

It’s important to know whether a president has worked in business. It’s important because having worked in business is associated with being a lousy president, at least in the modern era.

One reason that people are ready to believe that businessmen make good leaders may be because business and government do have in common the need for administrative and managerial skills. But these skills are not exclusive to the business world. As a matter of fact, the task of managing a non-profit with complex service goals may be far more demanding than managing a business that has only a bottom line goal .

It’s a truism that people tend to be good at what they know and business is not the same as politics:

Folks like  Romney, Spence and Brunner all

2. Business is essentially undemocratic. They work from the top-down and the will of the CEO is rarely questioned by subordinates subordinate and compliant boards of directors. Government leaders, however, have to deal with separate, equally powerful branches of government and independent foreign leaders as well navigating public opinion:. As presidential historian George C. Edwards of Texas A&M University observes:

[Businessmen] have a mind-set and it’s difficult to adjust that mind-set to a different world, and politics is very much a different world than business,” […]. The ability to compromise, the ability to negotiate with people who also have power as opposed to ordering them what to do. These are needed skills, […]. “It’s why, on average, businessmen who have been cabinet secretaries also have not been particularly successful.

3.  Businesses cultivate secrecy rather than the transparency required for a successful democratic government. In all organizations, information plays a stragetic role, but in the business world, which often closely guards financial and trade secrets, the level of control over access to crucial information is an arbitrary function of leadership.

Already

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Mitt Romney, if measured by how well he did for himself in the business world was an insanely successful financier, but was by most measures a failure as governor of Massachusetts. The performance of the Massachusetts economy under Romney was, as the Obama camp has gleefully pointed out, dire. Abd although Romney has tried to claim that the fault lay with the Democratic legislature, the current Democratic governor, Patrick Duval together with a largely Democratic legislature has been able to  rescue the state from the Bush recession twice as fact as other states. Massachusetts currently ranks in the top 10 states in job growth. So much for Romney’s vaunted claims to understand what makes an economy successful.

Business and government are not really very similar. A business CEO is rarely questioned by subordinates and compliant boards of directors. Government leaders, however, have to deal with separate, equally powerful branches of government and independent foreign leaders as well navigating public opinion. As presidential historian George C. Edwards of Texas A&M University observes:

[Businessmen] have a mind-set and it’s difficult to adjust that mind-set to a different world, and politics is very much a different world than business,” […]. The ability to compromise, the ability to negotiate with people who also have power as opposed to ordering them what to do. These are needed skills, […]. “It’s why, on average, businessmen who have been cabinet secretaries also have not been particularly successful.

Business have one goal: profit for owners and shareholders. The goal of government is service and it is only successful if all the people it serves thrive. Romney was a successful corporate raider because he could treat the welfare of the organizations acquired by Bain capital as a peripherial issue. His adventures in outsourcing are also quite logical when viewed from a perspective that focuses single-mindedly on profit.

The moral? You shouldn’t get your hopes up that eith

As presidential historian George C. Edwards of Texas A&M University observes:

[Businessmen] have a mind-set and it’s difficult to adjust that mind-set to a different world, and politics is very much a different world than business,” […]. The ability to compromise, the ability to negotiate with people who also have power as opposed to ordering them what to do. These are needed skills, […]. “It’s why, on average, businessmen who have been cabinet secretaries also have not been particularly successful.