George McGovern: Politicians Should Get The Hell Out Of Business

George McGovern is probably farther to the left than any other candidate nominated by a major political party. His faith in government, however, was checked by his life experience as a small businessman. It made him suspicious of government control of business decisions, as he explains in a WSJ op-ed today:

After leaving the Senate in 1981, I spent some time running a hotel. It was an eye-opening introduction to something most business operators are all-too familiar with — the difficulty of controlling costs and setting prices in a weak economy. Despite my trust in government, I would have been alarmed by an outsider taking control of basic management decisions that determine success or failure in a business where I had invested my life savings.

The context for this was his opposition to the card-check bill favoured by most Democrats, especially the provisions that mandate government arbitration of labour disputes. But there’s no reason this analysis should be limited to that context. (Although it does make me suspect that McGovern might have opposed the Obama administration’s role in the Chrysler negotiations.) 

UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge argues that perhaps we should McGovernize the legislative and executive branches:

The Obama adminsitration is populated for the most part by community organisers, academics, economists, and financiers. I doubt whether 1 in 100 has shared McGovern’s experience of running a small business into which they have risked their life savings.

So here’s my idea: We amend the US Constitution’s provisions on the qualifications required of a President, Vice President, Senator, and Representative to mandate that they have started a small business into which at least 75% of their net worth was invested and have operated said business for no less than three years in order to be eligible for office. Then they too might be alarmed by government taking control of the basic management decisions that determine business success or failure.

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