Which path will we take? Free markets vs. big government

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Compare the political philosophies of President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, and what you see over there in the left corner of the ring is Big, Big Government -- runaway spending as the answer to everything, more intervention, more control, an attitude of Washington knows best.

And in the right corner, the Romney corner? You see faith in markets and freedom, maybe not as wholly libertarian as some would like, but a world's difference from the president's.

This difference, it seems to me, is at the heart of the decision Americans are making in this year's presidential election, but there are other important matters, too, one of which is Mr. Romney's demonstrated leadership capacities next to Mr. Obama's record of failure and overreach. Mr. Romney has his faults, not the least of them his flip-flops, but he has time and again shown extraordinary skills in running big operations, beginning with his tenure as boss of Bain Capital.

Of course, we have people like Alan Blinder, a Princeton economics professor, who wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that you sure don't want a former CEO as president because the job is so different from being a political leader. That view and other observations in the piece tell me you sure don't want an economics professor addressing such matters because he doesn't know what he is talking about. You want someone like John Kotter, a scholar of leadership I encountered in a 1980s classroom when he was a professor at the Harvard Business School.

Mr. Kotter understands how some approaches spell success whether the leadership role is in private enterprise or public service. Rather than count on my memory, I searched online for his thoughts, finding a quote that sums up what I recall as a central point of his: "Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there."

As the CEO of Bain Capital, Mr. Romney ran one of the most successful private equity companies in America and one that is still earning gobs of money for a slew of investors, among them public employee unions all over the country. He helped launch such thriving enterprises as Domino's Pizza and Staples. He did not do all that without vision, strategy and inspiring others.

Mr. Blinder, who makes a big deal of CEOs focusing on the bottom line, does not seem to get it that you only make that bottom line shine if you first off make sure you are doing what works. Contrast that with some politicians who seem to think the road to utopia is good intentions and who then skip hard questions of technique, slamming us with disastrous, unintended consequences.

Mr. Romney, of course, has proved himself in public service as well. He took over management of the 2002 Winter Olympics when it was $379 million in the hole, converting that plight into a surplus originally put at $56 million and then recalculated at $100 million. Later, as the Republican governor of Massachusetts, he converted major deficits into surpluses and helped lead the state from 47th of all states in job growth to 28th, all the time negotiating with a legislature 80 percent Democratic.

Mr. Obama, as we know, was a community organizer, and I do not mean to make fun of that. I want to note instead how Mr. Romney as a Mormon bishop was also a community leader, working unremittingly to help his flock. This man's utter, unquestionable kindness, his commitment to lending a hand, his charitable giving and his self-sacrifice all point to exceptional character.

Disregard the dirty, dishonest campaign ads making Mr. Romney out to be a rat in candidate's clothing. He is actually an accomplished leader wrapped in decency.

opinion_commentary

Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers, is a columnist living in Colorado (speaktojay@aol.com.)


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