I post what follows with some hesitation; I feel I should say something considering the tragic events of yesterday, but I have nothing. I do think there is genius in succinctness, the lasting kiss of a short brief work, and perhaps the briefest phrase is no words at all. I cannot attempt genius, but I can at least attempt silence, and the dead of yesterday can now be given nothing but that.
So, the following is a simple context, strangely unremarked by reporters, to a speech given by Mitt Romney chastising his president for his un-american attitude. A transcript, accompanied by the approving whoops of partisans, can be found here. Analysis I found valuable, though it does not deal with the context I address here, are “How ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Violated Conservative P.C.”, by Jonathan Chait and “How The ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Canard Went From Right-Wing Blogs To Mitt Romney’s Mouth” by David Taintor.
I quote two notable fragments:
I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone could have said what he said who had actually started a business or been in a business. And my own view is that what the President said was both startling and revealing. I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by a President of the United States. It goes to something that I have spoken about from the beginning of the campaign. That this election is, to a great degree, about the soul of America. Do we believe in an America that is great because of government or do we believe in an America that is great because of free people allowed to pursue their dreams and build our future?
In the past, people of both parties understood that encouraging achievement, encouraging success, encouraging people to lift themselves as high as they can, encouraging entrepreneurs, celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating, makes America strong. That’s the right course for this country. His course is extraordinarily foreign.
So, Romney makes very clear that government is detrimental to success, and government involving itself in business is “extraordinarily foreign”. I find this approach rather strange, given testimony his father, George Romney, gave before the Senate Antitrust subcommittee, February 7th, 1958. His father, I think everyone will acknowledge, was a very successful businessman. It is thanks to his father’s extraordinary business acumen that Mitt Romney was born to such a privileged and wealthy place. It may also be said with little dispute that, unlike his son, his business concentrated on creating and keeping jobs in the United States, rather than exclusively on profit, with jobs of secondary or no importance at all.
Here now is this testimony before the subcommittee. There are many sources, but I have taken my quotes from a contemporary article in The Charleston Daily Mail. It is titled: “Competitor Asks Split of GM, Ford”. This was George Romney, asking the government to take apart the two largest companies, GM and Ford, as well as any company that exceeded a 35% share of the market. Though partisans might seize on the fact that this was partly due to unions having a greater bargaining advantage with a small number of competitors in a market, which they could play off each other, this was not the sole reason at all. George Romney felt that an outsize position was detrimental to customers, shareholders, all parties.
I cannot quote the article in its entirety, but unlike Mitt Romney, I do not quote someone out of context; those who read the piece in full at the link will find the quotes retain the same meaning.
The president of American Motors Corp. today urged Congress to break up General Motors and Ford into smaller companies and split the bargaining forces of the United Auto Workers.
[George] Romney, whose company is one of the two comparatively small independent producers surviving, declared that “economic power in the automobile industry should be limited and divided.”
Romney suggested that any company which approached a dominant place in a basic industry be compelled to split itself.
The breakup point, he suggested, should come when a firm exceeds 35 per cent of the total sales of an industry: or, if it is engaged in more than one basic industry, 25 per cent.
After crossing the 35 per cent line, Romney explained, the company would be obliged to submit to the government a plan for splitting off part of its operations as a new and going concern.
Romney said, “General Motors and Ford stockholders, executives, employees and customers could reasonably be expected to benefit.”
So, it does appear that George Romney actively sought out the government’s help to break apart his competitors, that he believed their very success at achieving a market share of over 35% merited the state intervening. My humble mind observes a man of the past, attacking success, denigrating success, rather than celebrating it. The president has made the simple point that government builds and supports infrastructure which helps create a healthy environment for business. This simple idea, Mitt Romney has called un-american. Mitt Romney’s father made a demand that went far further than this idea, asking for the government to come in and diminish his corporate fellows. It seems that Mitt Romney’s father, by his own son’s terms, is far more un-american, far more foreign, in his approach to capitalism than his opponent. Yet somehow this un-american, extraordinarily foreign man managed to create more long-term jobs in the United States than his son has done, or ever will.
The great maw of the state turned down the request of this decent, extraordinarily foreign man.