Businesspeople Don't Always Make Good Politicians

The Huffington Post has early access to the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, which – among many other things – reveals the Apple CEO’s distaste for President Obama and his policies:

When he [Jobs] finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative. ‘You’re headed for a one-term presidency,’ he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. […]

Though Jobs was not that impressed by Obama, later telling Isaacson that his focus on the reasons that things can’t get done ‘infuriates’ him, they kept in touch and talked by phone a few more times. [Emphasis mine]

You should count this as a data point in my contention that business makes a poor training ground for lawmaking. Governing is messy, difficult work, and requires people with a willingness to make deals and sacrifice the perfect to the good. The traits that made Steve Jobs a phenomenal businessman – strict perfectionism, an aversion to compromise, and a willingness to ignore the doubts of others and charge ahead – would have made him a terrible politician and lawmaker.

In an ideal world, we would understand this, and value politicians for the skills they bring to governing in the same way that we value entrepreneurs and others for the skills they bring to business. As it stands, we tend to demonize politicians for doing their jobs – and hold them in contempt when we see the process – and assume that business expertise is applicable in every realm of public life. As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney did a decent job – a fact that should be a point in his favor and not a strike against him. That he actively disavows his time as governor speaks to our broad discomfort with the people who run our political institutions.

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