“Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” George Santayana
Numerous reasons help to explain why, in general, business leaders, even the most titanic, often make failed politicians.
Though over the years government has imposed certain regulations on our “free market” economic system of Capitalism, and while business executives commonly must answer to their Boards, shareholders, and sometimes to the courts, the worlds they inhabit impose far fewer restrains on their virtual autocratic decision making and management styles.
The framers of our great Constitution, though, in their wisdom, devised a system of checks and balances between the three major branches of government – Executive, Legislative, Judicial — so that no single branch could grab excessive powers over the others. They certainly had good reason not to replicate in their newly established country what they had experienced as a tyrannical British monarchy.
They also established the concept of a free and open public press in the First Amendment (supplemented and expanded by legislative actions and judicial decisions) acting as a “Fourth Estate” of sorts to ensure additional checks on potentially unfettered misinformation campaigns by powerful leaders to circumvent constitutional constraints.
Attempting to transfer business experience as the basis for entering the political arena poses great challenges at the very least. The metaphoric houses of business executives give them far more shelter by restricting the outside investigatory gaze compared with politicians’ houses of clear and largely unobstructed glass.
Take Donald Trump as an example of our cautionary tale. Trump, who inherited the mantle of business titan as if a divine right of kings, appears temperamentally incapable of governing within a constitutional democracy.
Even setting aside his multiple disqualifying traits, including his erratic temperament, countless character flaws, in addition to his questionable mental stability, this self-imposed autocratic titan of business collided full speed into the intractable iceberg of politics. Now with a massive breach in his ship of state, he and his administration find themselves quickly taking on water and slowly, but most assuredly, sinking to the bottom.
The good news in this National Traumatic Stress Disorder — inevitable National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – is that our democratic experiment will survive, and might even gain momentum and advance. This will come about, though, only if our leaders and our collective national consciousness incorporate and retain our history. Otherwise, to invoke George Santayana once again:
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