Different Jobs, Different Skills.

Via Salon's Andrew Leonard, I wish this were said more often than it is:

Alas, governing the United States is a task fundamentally different from running either a small business or a Fortune 500 company. You could even argue that the qualities that make for a good CEO -- at least insofar as judged by American standards of capitalist success -- are manifestly useless when applied to the job of steering the federal government. [...]

In corporate America, you follow orders or you get fired. There is no such thing as a filibuster, or a secret hold that prevents the CEO from appointing his or her own pick to a crucial position. Perhaps the single most frustrating thing that any business leader will discover very quickly after moving into the Oval Office is that on the most important issues, your power to make your will manifest is extremely limited.

I go a little insane whenever a corporate leader promises to bring "business sense" to Washington (or the statehouse, for that matter). As Leonard says, governing -- in a democracy, at least -- requires a fundamentally different skill set than the one needed to successfully run a business and turn a profit.

More broadly, I'm a little bothered by the implications of this "all you need is a CEO" rhetoric. Government service is hard, and even low-profile elected officials have a tough job ahead of them. Underpaid (considering their credentials) and rarely appreciated, they have the mostly unenviable job of writing laws, hashing out legislation, and trying to represent the interests and aspirations of their constituents. Not everyone can do this, and it diminishes lawmakers to tout "business experience" as the only thing you need to successfully run (or participate in) a government. You don't have to be sympathetic to politicians (though I am) to see that this is a problem.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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