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The United States of America Isn’t a Business

Atrios, stating the simple truth that being good at something doesn’t axiomatically make you good at something else, points to a Paul Krugman post regarding the ubiquitous sentiment that smart businessmen make good economic policymakers.

Leaving aside all the questions about what Mitt Romney did or didn’t do at Bain — and about his self-aggrandizing double standard — there’s an even broader question: why does anyone believe that success in business qualified someone to make economic policy?

For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods.

The answer to that question is probably rooted in the fact that [number far exceeding 90%] of people have never been privileged to a class on even rudimentary macroeconomics. (Also an explanation for why Ron Paul has so many followers when, literally, he has 19th century views on how the world operates).

I’m not saying that is necessarily a fault of their own. Contrarily, this chronic notion speaks to the continuing failures of American elites to be honest and forthright with the electorate.

That is, unless they actually believe this nonsense. That can’t be the case, though, right? 



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