To borrow a line from Charlie Daniels: “I ain’t nothing but a simple (wo)man.” I freely confess that I don’t have an in-depth understanding of high-end financial dealings, never having been on the high end of finances myself. But I do know that I’m getting pretty sick and tired of pundits, PACs, and pro-Romney types piling on and questioning the conservative credentials of those – like Gingrich and Perry – who would dare to suggest that we might actually want to examine the record of business dealings engaged in by one who is running on his record as a businessman. I think we need to continue to kick the tires on the Romney bandwagon.
[Yes, I know wagons actually had wheels, not tires. I’m not that simple.]
Let’s get one thing straight: I haven’t heard a single GOP candidate in the entire campaign so far espouse the principle that enterprise should be anything other than free. I am confident that they all believe that the government should stay out of the business of subsidizing, regulating (except to the extent actually necessary to promote interstate commerce and the general welfare), and picking winners and losers. This is a given. So we build a fence around federal government power and limit it to those functions which were granted in the Constitution. After that’s done (although it’s misleading to think of it as ever being done exactly, because we have to keep reinforcing the fence), then the capitalists are left to interact among themselves: to compete, to innovate, etc., etc., and the consumers pick the winners and losers. I’m completely confident that none of the candidates would disagree with that.
Still, it is entirely legitimate for us to question how those capitalists conduct themselves as they interact among themselves and with their employees and consumers. The acts of examination and discernment are part of being a good consumer. Ultimately the consumer’s examination and discernment is that essential factor which makes free enterprise work to the benefit of all. It’s not just the success of the product or service – whether a particular capitalist has made the best widget – that’s important. It’s also important how a particular capitalist has comported himself. So if a hypothetical capitalist has a choice between making six gazillion dollars in profit for FY20XX by closing plants and shipping jobs overseas, or only making four gazillion dollars profit for FY20XX while keeping Americans working, it’s important to me to know what decision was made, and how and why it was made. I’m referring to the morals and ethics of the hypothetical capitalist. Greed is still one of the seven deadlies, last I checked. I’m allowed to ask, and the act of asking does not mean that I’m “attacking from the left” or “bashing the free enterprise system.”
As an aside: It seems to me, in my simple view of the world, that it is a responsibility of consumers to require that excellent morals and ethics be exercised, in addition to excellent products and services being provided, by those with whom they do business. I think that part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in is that we as consumers haven’t done a very good job of this of late. Material girls and boys, ever eager to score the lowest price on a bunch of stuff we don’t really need, we’ve abdicated our responsibility to question the morals and ethics of how said stuff is produced. As contemptible as the #OWS types were, it seems that at least some of the underpinning of that ill-conceived movement was a certain vague discomfiture based on the sense that morals and ethics in business dealings have all too often been abandoned, and on that point, I can agree. The #OWS types were, of course, incredibly confused about how to go about fixing things. The lazy and the clueless want to abdicate their individual responsibility/power of discernment, childishly yearning for the government to step in like some giant playground monitor and make the bullies behave, not realizing that in so doing, they have only set up another centralized absolute power structure which has (absolutely) become corrupt.
Only individual discernment – and the freedom to exercise it – will fix things.
Which brings me back to my right – indeed, my responsibility – to ask: If a presidential candidate had been a veterinarian prior to getting into politics, I’d want to know about his veterinary practice. Was he competent? Did he cut corners on care? Did he price-gouge on meds or emergency care? Was his practice well-run? What did the other vets in the area think about him? Any complaints with the licensing board? Were they well-founded or not? And actually, most importantly, I would want to know how he treated the guy who cleaned the litter boxes and walked the inpatients at his clinic at the end of every day, because in the end, that would tell me more about him as a person than all the rest of the information combined.
Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.” If Romney secures the nomination, I’ll energetically climb aboard his bandwagon, but until then, I’m reserving the right to stand back, look under the hood, and kick the tires a few times.
We’re allowed to ask what candidate Romney made, other than money.