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Why would anyone think businessmen make good politicians

Down in Georgia the Republicans are having an intraparty hate fest. One candidate, a fellow named David Perdue, showed the world how little good a college education can do by attacking his opponent for not having a college education. In Georgia of all places, home of the dumb. But the purpose of this post is not to mock Mr. Perdue for being politically tone deaf.

Mr. Perdue is also claiming that he is the superior candidate by virtue of his business experience. A little closer to home, Paul Choiniere of the New London Day implies that Paul Formica, who was trounced by Joe Courtney in the 2012 election, may be preferable to our good friend Betsy Ritter in the 20th State Senate race because he can trumpet his business experience. He runs a fish market.

It is truly amazing how some memes never die, facts be damned. The claim that business experience, particularly business success, is a qualification for political office is oft repeated, despite the fact that when put to the proof, the pudding is usually not to anyone's liking.

Presidents with substantial business experience tend to rank near the bottom of the charts. Think Herbert Hoover, or either of the Bushes, though W disproves another observation: that success in business does not translate into success as a politician, but failure sometimes does. Think Harry Truman.

There probably are some, but off hand I can't think of any politician I would characterize as great or even good whose primary pre-political experience was in business. People like to mock attorneys, but the fact is that we are trained to see all sides of a question and our job is to help people. That may be why so many of our best politicians were lawyers. (Think A. Lincoln, for starts) Businessmen are focused on making money and, particularly in our present economy, the more successful they are the more they got that way by screwing as many of their fellow men (and women) as they could. It is extremely unlikely that they would see their job as a politician as anything other than diverting money toward people like themselves-or, for that matter, directly to themselves. Since Congress is already quite good at keeping the feeding trough full for the .01, it's hard to see how business types could improve things.

Now, whether or not a guy who sells fish is likely to be an extreme example of that tendency is another question, but then, it's really hard to argue that selling fish gives one experience that translates into being a good politician.

The real problem here is the underlying assumption that there is no real art to being a politician. Choiniere, for instance, dismisses Betsy's “ability in the General Assembly to bring lawmakers together, find compromises and get legislation passed”, but that is the very art of politics. We are dismissive of politics as a profession, and as a result our politicians have steadily degraded in quality. There is little to nothing about running a business that gives a person the experience or the world view that makes for a good politician.

Fortunately, while we citizens, like the pundits, hold politicians in contempt, as a result of which they've become contemptible, we have not followed the pundits when it comes to believing that business experience is good training for politics. If we did, Donald Trump might be president right now, and, perish the thought, Linda McMahon would be a United States Senator.

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