Mitt Romney, Capitalism, and the Meaning of Success

Mitt Romney doesn’t really seem to understand the beauty of the American project

The other day, I wrote that I simply can’t bring myself to vote for Mitt Romney. In the piece, I cited his dreary conventionalism and unyielding devotion to efficacy and business-like administration at the expense of traditional American philosophical concepts such as liberty and individual rights. A number of comments took particular exception to this part of my piece:

Political philosophy is baffling to Mitt Romney because his lifeblood is efficacy, not ideas. People who work their way up the ladder of success like Romney has are too busy “being successful” to contemplate meaning and vision. They do what’s expected of them, and they do it devilishly well…He wants to be an elected official because, well, it’s what successful people do…Romney wants to be president because it’s the final check-box on his sublimely perfect resume.

Several commenters thought that I was “attacking Romney for being successful.” One accused me of attacking him from the left.

But I don’t begrudge him his financial success, and I’m certainly not going after him from the left. Rather, my feelings are similar to something Bill Kristol wrote the following day:

Watching Mitt Romney’s victory speech in Illinois didn’t reassure me about his chances against President Obama…Romney’s remarks consisted basically of the claim that the business of America is business, that he’s a businessman who understands business, and that we need “economic freedom” not for the sake of freedom but to allow business to fuel the economy.

Kristol is right to fret about this. Mitt Romney doesn’t really seem to understand the beauty of the American project, and can conceptualize “success” only in terms of making money and checking off boxes. I have no problem with making money — indeed, I encourage it! — but there’s more to success in life — and politics — than profits and efficacy. It’s not conservative to obsess about money. Capitalism is good fundamentally because it allows individuals to be, in Milton Friedman’s famous summation of the system’s virtue, free to choose — not merely because it allows them to accumulate lots of stuff. If conservatism has been reduced to the manic accumulation of money, count me out.

I don’t think that’s what conservatism is about, though. Like Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, I believe that the heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism: maximizing the freedom of the individual from government control. Mitt Romney loves business, not markets. No lover of the free market heartily exclaims his love of mandates, or spends his time wondering how the government can get everyone health insurance.

We’re rapidly reaching the point where our nation must ask itself whether it is content to simply spiral into fiscal insanity — and the problem is not that “government isn’t run like a business.” The problem is our nation’s obsession with instant gratification and the idea that we can get something for nothing. The last generation has betrayed my generation and saddled us with crushing debt. Romney’s record and public statements demonstrate that he is fundamentally unserious about changing the culture in Washington — and I’m done compromising on so important an issue that it threatens our nation’s continued existence as we know it.

-Alex Knepper

  • Sherry Taylor

    The GOP is self-destructing right before our eyes and the victims on the side of the road are WE THE PEOPLE!

  • Arlen Williams

    Good article.

    Here is Mitt Romney’s “success” of the Salt Lake City Olympics. It seems some of the greater than $1B of largess he got from federal government treasury, to do it, has gone into his SuperPAC.

    Q: What essentially is the difference between Crony Capitalism and what is practiced in neo-Marxist nations?

  • bright knight

    “Romney’s record and public statements demonstrate that he is fundamentally unserious about changing the culture in Washington”

    That’s right and certainly Romney is NOT my choice, BUT: what’s the alternative? Right: 4 more years for the unborn nowhereman, 4 years more time to push his agenda, 4 years more time to destroy this country. Thanks, but NO THANK!

    EVERYBODY who wants to remove the Destroyer in Chief from his current address MUST vote for whoever will be the GOP candidate. PERIOD!

    Can you imagine the unborn nowhereman another 4 years and he doesn’t have to watch any polls or bother about a re-election, because it’s his last term anyway? If you think, it’s bad now, I can guarantee you it will get worse…much worse.

    So: VOTE FOR WHOEVER WILL BE THE GOP-CANDIDATE. Even if there will be a third-party-candidate and even if this third-party-candidate would be the perfect candidate for our cause: VOTE FOR THE GOP-CANDIDATE, because a third-part-candidate splits the votes of the people who don’t want Obama and will give Obama a second term.

    In 1976 the (at that time conservative party) CDU (Christian Democratic Union, now called Chaotic Dhimmi Union) had a slogan in the election campaign: Freiheit oder Sozialismus – Freedom/Liberty or Socialism.
    That’s what this election in November 2012 is about!


  • James Damron

    Anyone is better then Obama

  • Buster Chappell

    Another moron taking his ball and going home because he doesn’t get his way! So you want 4 more years of Emperor Obama? Good luck with that!

  • Dottie Krull

    What ever his flaws surely one would not consider a vote for Obama a better vote, nor is no vote better than a vote for Romney. (This is not an endorsement for Romney.)

  • Sparky Donald

    If you cant bring vote for Romney,take the advice of that worm,santorum and vote for obama..or do the really cowardly thing and dont vote at all

  • Ruth Ann Ferguson

    Why do you believe that it is more important to protect philosophy right now or is it more important to protect the Constitution and the America? We need to right the sinking ship of European type debt and get that back on track – remove all the killing exexcutive orders of Obama – remove the the EPA – get us all back on financial dry land to get our feet under us without sinking in the quicksand of Obama and all his socialistic notions. Once we are there and back on the way to getting better economically we can then deal with the philosophical notions. In truth, once the economic problems are on the way to being repaired I would tay that the philosophical notions will fall right in line. Any vote for Obama or no vote at all is a vote for Obama and we need to do one thing – REMOVE OBAMA FROM OFFICE IN NOVEMBER. We need to support whomever the candidate is – just not support Obama whether in word – like this nut has done – or no vote in November like many did when they should have gotten out and voted for McCain even though they didnot want to. They stuck us with this atrocity.

  • Dena Bledsoe Baird

    So what are you going to do, Axex Knepper, vote for Obama? That is cutting your nose off to spite your face.

  • Mark

    You have Hollywood, the liberal press, and now the Tea Party attacking the GOP

    And when Obama gets reelected I better not see a bunch of complaining Tea Tards on here!!!!!!

  • http://Romney jesse chavez

    gets old listening to this anybody but Romney garbage. Get over it. He will be the GOP nominee, and he will be our new President.

  • Vannessa Blasingame Burson

    I will sadly but surely vote for Romney if he is the nominee!