Is any of the GOP presidential candidates actually capable of standing up for small government, liberty and free market capitalism? You’d have thought that celebrating these values would be an essential part of their job. But not, apparently, if you’re so desperate to beat Mitt Romney you’d sell your every last ideological principle down the river.
Rick Perry has called Romney and his ilk at Bain Capital “vultures”; Newt Gingrich has essentially accused of him of pillaging the companies that Bain took over; and Jon Huntsman has said that Romney “enjoys firing people.”
Sure this is very much the line of attack you’d expect from a Leftist opportunist like Joe Biden, as Tim Stanley noticed in his excellent appraisal this morning:
Already the Democratic National Committee is running ads quoting the “I like to fire” line. Only the day after Romney let it slip, Vice President Joe Biden told a rally in New Hampshire: “Romney thinks it’s more important for the stockholders, shareholders and the investors, the venture capital guys, to do well than for employees to be part of the bargain.” The prospect of a Romney nomination seems to be helping the Democrats rediscover their inner populist.
Well here’s the thing: capitalism isn’t nice. As Schumpeter noted, it involves a process called “creative destruction” which is why, in Britain, for example, we no longer have a hand-loom weaving or shipbuilding industry. Times change; industries die; economies develop. And in the process it cannot but be otherwise people lose their job.
But while free-market capitalism isn’t nice it happens to be the least worst of all the available options. Which is why the speech Mitt Romney should be making in defence of his behaviour at Bain is this one, kindly written for him by the abovementioned Troy Senik at Ricochet.
Over the past few days, you’ve been hearing my opponents say not only that I was responsible for people losing their jobs, but that I actually enjoyed the process. That ought to tell you that these individuals aren’t ready to manage something as complex as the largest economy on the planet. We’ve already had three years of a president who believes that jobs are created or lost based on what kind of mood employers wake up in in the morning. But that’s just not true. Unlike politicians, employers have to face the harsh reality of balance sheets. Unlike politicians, employers often have to sacrifice today to ensure that they can keep the doors open tomorrow. A bad day for a politician is flubbing an interview. A bad day for an employer is not knowing how you’re going to meet the next payroll period.
I would remind my opponents – as I would remind President Obama – that work is a form of public service. Our ability to make money is directly tied to our ability to provide something of value to our fellow man. But sometimes when the customer’s needs change or when we lose ground to our competitors, we have to make changes. We don’t choose these circumstances. As a matter of fact, we hate these circumstances. But, like many Americans that are struggling today, we accept the things that we cannot change, we make the hard choices, and we persevere. That is never an easy task. And unfortunately, sometimes people lose their jobs as a result. But what, I wonder, do my opponents think the alternative is? If a company on the brink of failure has no choice but to let a few employees go now or to see all of their jobs disappear eventually, what should they do?
Those are the kind of painful choices that people face in the real economy. And I find it telling that that concept is foreign to my opponents. They’re not foreign to the American people – because they’re living through them every day. You can talk to anyone who’s ever sat behind a manager’s desk – whether it’s in a corner office or a corner store – and they’ll tell you that there’s nothing that they hate more than having to fire someone. Americans take pride in their work. Losing a paycheck hurts. But losing your sense of dignity hurts more. My experiences in business didn’t make me enjoy firing people. It made me loathe the politicians in Washington for whom those people are nothing more than statistics on a spreadsheet.
So let me tell you something that my opponents don’t understand. In businesses like the one I was in, you do well when the company you’ve invested in does well. And when they do well, it creates a virtuous cycle. Employees are better off because a thriving company can create jobs or increase pay and benefits. Consumers are better off because they can meet their needs within their budgets. And yes, management profits too when things are going well. And if my opponents have a problem with that, they’re running in the wrong primary.
Will Mitt Romney ever say such a thing? Of course he won’t. Why won’t he? Because, like David Cameron, he’s one of those “conservatives” who believes the best way for a conservative to “win” an election is to pretend conservatism doesn’t exist. This policy hasn’t done much for the cause of conservatism in Britain. I doubt it will do much for the cause of conservatism in the US either. Roll on 2016
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