Last week, long-time Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen published an extremely vitriolic column attacking Mitt Romney as “a man of falsehoods.” What I want to focus on in this post, though, is not the positives and negatives of Mr Romney, but rather the concluding paragraph of Cohen’s article:
He often cites his business background as commending him for the presidency. That’s his forgivable absurdity. Instead, what his career has given him is the businessman’s concept of self — that what he does is not who he is. This is what enables the slumlord to be a charitable man. This is what enables the corporate raider to endow his university. Business is business. It’s what you do. It is not who you are. Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.
So, in Cohen’s view, the businessman’s “concept of self” inherently involves a separation of what he does from who he is…a more forthright way he could have put this, I guess, would have been to simply say that all businessmen are weasels. (It’s interesting that Cohen chooses to use the term “businessman” rather than the gender-neutral term “businessperson.” Does he believe that there are no female slumlords? Does he think women inherently lack the analytical skills and competitive spirit required to be a successful corporate raider?) Evidently, Cohen believes that businesspeople are much more prone to unethical behavior (“Lying isn’t a sin. It’s a business plan.”) than are, say, tort lawyers, college professors, civil-service employees, or the executives of “nonprofit” organizations.
Of course, there is a long tradition of aristocrats looking down their long noses at those who are “in trade.” (Although I expect that average aristocrat’s view of a newspaper columnist wouldn’t be much more positive than his view of a storeowner or a factory manager.)
Cohen is far from being on the leftmost pole of the Washington journalistic establishment, and that fact that he feels able to make such pejorative drive-by assertions about the nature of businesspeople, without the need to build a case for their validity, speaks volumes about the current climate of opinion among those who today identify themselves as liberals and “progressives”–ie, the controlling elements of the Democratic Party.
A corporate executive who despised salespeople or manufacturing people would be unlikely to be able to run the sales function or the manufacturing function of his company effectively. There is no chance that politicians from a party dominated by people like Cohen–and much worse–will be able to supervise a free-market economy in a way leading to sustainable economic recovery and growth.