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Another Ethos Problem

Your Humble Blogger is having a bad Google day, and is just going to give up and write this note without the links. Apologies for that, Gentle Readers, but I wanted to make this point before I forgot about it entirely.

The point is sparked by a thing I heard on NPR (I think, tho’ I can’t find it now) where a fellow from the Wall Street Journal said that Mitt Romney needs to not only defend his tax returns and his investment history, but make an affirmative case that his success in business is the story of his prospective success in the White House. That is, he has to explain that he succeeded in business because of his particular skills and talents, and that those skills and talents, when applied to government, result in success—in job creation, to use the political term of the day.

This sparked in my mind, because I have had a few conversations recently where I felt compelled to point out that Mitt Romney was really, really good at making money. He went very quickly from somebody’s kid to somebody to reckon with, and did it (as he has pointed out) without going into his father’s business (not counting politics—I’m talking about his moneymaking skills, here, which seem to be awesome, not his political skills which are… arguable) and without his father staking him to massive start-up capital. Not that I am discounting the advantages he had being his father’s son, but it does seem that he made better use of those advantages than any other comparable famous person’s kid, when it comes to making money. He made a lot of money.

And I think it’s totally legitimate to argue, as my Party will, that his focus on making money for himself and his clients was to the detriment of working-class folk like you and me. I believe that’s true, actually. I also think that his careers show that he thinks that government should not act to protect the little guy from the powerful people (or corporations); he thinks that the emptor needs to caveat on his own, and that goes for everybody and everything. I don’t like what Mitt Romney did in the private sector, and given the opportunity I would have put in place laws and regulations to prevent much of it. Those are not in place, and weren’t at the time, and so he applied himself to his goals quite legally, and as I have been pointing out, quite successfully. I don’t admire that, but I do recognize it.

Here’s the thing, though. When I say that he is very, very good at making money, and when the fellow I can’t find says that he needs to explain how those skills will help him in the White House, I have to admit that I have no idea what those skills actually are.

Many jobs that I know I couldn’t possibly do, I still more or less have a sense of what the job is like. It might be wrong, probably is wrong for many of them, but still I think I know what skills and talents would make for a successful, f’r’ex, cop. Or President of the United States of America. Or schoolteacher. Or obstetrician. Or community organizer. Or bank president, or attorney, or software engineer. I might, I suppose, have some idea what skills Mitt Romney might have used to be successful in his years at Bain Consulting—I have met with management consultants, and while frankly I think it’s ninety-eight percent bullshit, I understand bullshitting isn’t a skill that everybody has. But the real moneymaking, as I understand it, was in the private equity business. And I have no idea at all what skills Mitt Romney actually used in the private equity business. I don’t think it’s just investing—as I understand it, the investing part (analyzing possible investments to estimate return, probability of success, etc) is a minor part of the private equity business. I just don’t really know what skills it takes to make money in that business. Negotiation? Persuasion? Timing?

I’m not trying to be snarky, here. I really don’t know. That’s a problem for Mitt Romney, isn’t it? Or is it?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


My guess would be that if people really knew what skills it takes to make money in that business, no one in that business would be welcome in polite society. But that's just a guess.

I don't think anyone really knows what skills are involved in being a President who presides over the creation of a lot of jobs, either. So it's not such a stretch to argue that the one set of ill-defined skills is congruent to the other set of ill-defined skills. Definitely easier to make the argument, I think, than it would be if one set of skills were clearly defined and the other wasn't.

I suspect, actually, that a big part of both skill sets is luck. Which is, I think, sort of a skill, in fact. On the other hand, ole Mitt hasn't seemed so very lucky of late.

By a surprising coincidence, not ten minutes before I saw your post here, I read an article that I think goes a ways toward answering some of your questions: “When will the real Mitt Romney stand up?” by Jonathan V. Last. The second and third sections are the most relevant parts.

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