The CEO of the United States?

In an interview, Elon Musk said he wished we could “just have a normal person as President.”  He also went on to say:

Since the president is effectively the executive officer of the country, it actually matters if they are a good executive officer. It’s not simply a matter of do they share your beliefs. But are they good at getting things done? There are a lot of decisions that need to be made every day. Many of them are unrelated to moral beliefs.”

I certainly agree with Elon about the importance of executive skill in a President–it is an ability that is clearly and sadly missing in Biden, as well as in certain past Presidents.  After all, the President’s primary and constitutionally-defined job is execution, not legislation. Yet operations is something that Biden is clearly not interested in, nor, I believe, was Obama.

Where I disagree with the above Musk passage is that phrase executive officer of the country.  No.  The President is executive officer of the government, not of the country. The government is not the society.  It is an agent of the society.

If statism in this country existed to the level that a US President could truly be said to be the executive officer of the country, then Musk would not have been able to accomplish the things he has accomplished without overwhelming levels of government approval, far about and beyond those approvals he has in fact had to get.  Rinse and repeat for all innovations, whether product or business process.

Indeed, given the role of Congress and that of the judiciary, even a President’s job as executive officer of the country is more analogous to a Chief Operating Officer in the private sector than that of a private-sector CEO.

7 thoughts on “The CEO of the United States?”

  1. In the popular locution, the president is “running the country.” That misleads for the reasons David Foster has provided, as well as a consequence of the reality that complex adaptive systems tend to do whatever they darn well please.

    And yet, the Sunday shows and the pundit class continue with their cultish belief that the president is “running the country.” How, though, do you deprogram cultist?

  2. I think the deification of the US President got a strong impetus from the Cold War era and the nature of nuclear weapons. If a President had the ability to kill several million people on his own authority, it does give him a certain godlike aura and may make other kinds of claimed authority seem minor in comparison.

    Earlier, of course, there was the perception–justified or not–that FDR ended the Great Depression. And the cult of Expertise promulgated under Wilson was also a factor.

  3. This is clearly into left field, though without a doubt the professionalization of theorizing and lack of good sense and checking results were all the core of disasters. But the chasm between comon sense and policy might not have run so counter to the American grain if the weapons Рexp nuclear but modern planes, drones, . Рwere not well understood. Everyone knew what a gun did and what rows of men facing other men would do. Much about the Cold War Рa war of secrets and secretive people Рwas a mystery. The cynicism of those like John le Carr̩ entertained us but did little to hearten us or dispel the mystery

    I like the clarity of your distinction. Biden’s fecklessness has not only given us idiots (the difference between his and his predecessor’s energy secretaries reminds us of the press’s many jokes about Perry who has more substance in a 5 minute interview on the run than Granholm has yet produced). What is even more disturbing is Blinken in the cabinet and Jake Sullivan advising. Their entire poliical careers have not well prepared them for sensible decisions or sane let alone moral priorities; certainly not for gaining our confidence. And the (apparent) plan to federalize as much as they can makes both him and his poor excuses for secretaries more dangerous.

  4. I think the deification of the US President got a strong impetus from the Cold War era and the nature of nuclear weapons.

    Personally, I think FDR got a lot of it going. Wilson was our first Fascist president but his work was reversed (thank God) by Harding and Coolidge. Harding commuted the sentence of Debs and let him out of prison where he had been sent by Wilson. The FBI was founded in 1908 and J Edgar took over in 1924. Much of the impetus was the assassination of McKinley by an anarchist. Hoover was far too involved in domestic politics. After Hoover’s death, Mark Felt used the FBI to stage a coup against Nixon.

  5. I don’t know if anyone cares, but it looks like Zelensky got a little too close to Wagner on one of his grandstanding visits to the front.

    Near the beginning of May they may have got him. If you look carefully the new one he not quite the same as the last one. Looks pretty close, but acts different enough, that I think this info is right. ;)

  6. Interested in real raw intelligence or espionage, Churchill, Gordievsky, Monty, Ungentlemanly Warfare, John le Carré, the SAS and Philby’s interest therein? Do read the epic fact based spy thriller, Bill Fairclough’s Beyond Enkription, the first stand-alone novel of six in TheBurlingtonFiles series. He was one of Pemberton’s People in MI6.

    Beyond Enkription is a fact based book which follows the real life of a real spy, Bill Fairclough (MI6 codename JJ) aka Edward Burlington who worked for British Intelligence, the CIA et al. It’s the stuff memorable spy films are made of, raw, realistic yet punchy, pacy and provocative; a super read as long as you don’t expect John le Carré’s delicate diction, sophisticated syntax and placid plots.

    For the synopsis of Beyond Enkription see TheBurlingtonFiles website. This thriller is like nothing we have ever come across before. Indeed, we wonder what The Burlington Files would have been like if David Cornwell aka John le Carré had collaborated with Bill Fairclough. They did consider it and even though they didn’t collaborate, Beyond Enkription is still described as ”up there with My Silent War by Kim Philby and No Other Choice by George Blake”.

    As for Bill Fairclough, he has even been described as a real life posh Harry Palmer; there are many intriguing bios of him on the web. As for Beyond Enkription, it’s a must read for espionage cognoscenti. To relish in this totally different non-fiction espionage thriller best do some research first. Try reading two brief news articles published on TheBurlingtonFiles website. One is about characters’ identities (September 2021) and the other about Pemberton’s People (October 2022). You’ll soon be immersed in a whole new world! As for TheBurlingtonFiles website, it is like a living espionage museum and as breathtaking as a compelling thriller in its own right.

  7. Perhaps instead of an Executive of the country, we should consider going back to less intrusion of government into everyday things. Even 30 years ago, there was a lot less intrusion. The election of POTUS was significant, but not to the point of the ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth’ that has so recently occurred. We could withstand the occasional bumbler and incompetent as their effect was so much less and they had so much less interest in the daily doings of the citizens.
    Today we have edicts about the power source of our vehicles, mandates for this and about that, and that we should accept as just-as-normal-as-puppies people who ‘identify’ as totem poles must be accepted for their declaration, no questions asked, even as they devastate other persons lives and aspersions with casual indifference. Acceptance does not imply that the government should be involved in that acceptance nor that they should force people to accept that which they personally do not accept.
    In short, we would all be a lot happier if we would accept our circumstance, within limits, and not demand the government become our ‘knight in shining armor’ to advance our particular desire. Most of us accept that: You were born this way, accept it and do your best.

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