July 17, 2012

THE CHOICE BETWEEN JOBS AND WEALTH:

The Capitalism Debate (DAVID BROOKS, July 16, 2012, NY Times)

Over the years of his presidency, Obama has not been a critic of globalization. There's no real evidence that, when he's off the campaign trail, he has any problem with outsourcing and offshoring. He has lavishly praised people like Steve Jobs who were prominent practitioners. He has hired people like Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, whose company embodies the upsides of globalization. His economic advisers have generally touted the benefits of globalization even as they worked to help those who are hurt by its downsides.

But, politically, this aggressive tactic has worked. It has shifted the focus of the race from being about big government, which Obama represents, to being about capitalism, which Romney represents. [...]

As Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has said again and again, it's not enough to say that capitalism will make you money. You can't fight what is essentially a moral critique with economics.

Romney is going to have to define a vision of modern capitalism. He's going to have to separate his vision from the scandals and excesses we've seen over the last few years. He needs to define the kind of capitalist he is and why the country needs his virtues.

Let's face it, he's not a heroic entrepreneur. He's an efficiency expert. It has been the business of his life to take companies that were mediocre and sclerotic and try to make them efficient and dynamic. It has been his job to be the corporate version of a personal trainer: take people who are puffy and self-indulgent and whip them into shape.

That's his selling point: rigor and productivity. If he can build a capitalist vision around that, he'll thrive. 

The problem for both sides is that they haven't processed the reality of modern economics, which is that we're going to become vastly wealthier as we work substantially less.  We don't have a jobs problem, just a wealth redistribution question.

Posted by at July 17, 2012 6:04 AM
  

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