Why we need business people in politics

Business skills might not necessarily fit with government policy, but business people are good for one thing–dealing with other business people

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    Bernstein argues that the suits are needed in politics, if only to deal with other suits.
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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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