On Romney

I promised in comments this week that I’d take a look at old posts that mentioned Mitt Romney. Romney may run for the U.S. Senate from Utah (if Sen. Hatch retires), so he’s still relevant to future political developments.

I’ll list the titles of some old Romney-related posts, with a short summary from them, and evaluate each from this vantage, of late-2017.

(Disclosure: I’m a libertarian, from a libertarian family, although no longer a member of the Libertarian Party itself. I voted for Gary Johnson when Romney ran in 2012.

More generally, there are different kinds of libertarians, just as there are different kinds of conservatives or liberals. I’d be considered a bleeding-heart libertarian, where adherents seek a synthesis of arguments for economic liberty and social justice. Examples of this approach include John Tomsai’s Free Market Fairness, Matt Zwolinski’s essays, or the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog.  The examples don’t imply complete agreement, yet do accurately present basic tenets.)

Bain’s Not Romney’s Weakness, It’s His Strength, 1.12.2012:

“Predictably, opportunistic GOP rivals want to attack Mitt Romney’s career at Bain Capital as proof that he’s heartless, greedy, etc. This is unsurprising, as these GOP rivals (except Ron Paul) don’t favor free and voluntary markets, they favor particular businesses (those that contribute to their campaigns, first and foremost)….His work at Bain is probably the best thing Romney has ever done, and surely better than his time as governor of Massachusetts. For that matter, it’s better than any public work either his GOP rivals or Pres. Obama has done.

Why is that? It’s because the market is a place of peaceful, voluntary transactions between parties for mutual benefit. Romney didn’t confiscate anyone’s earnings through taxes, impose regulations on others, or start any wars while he was at Bain Capital. (He made two of those three mistakes while governor, but his rivals can say no better for their time in state or federal office.)”

I’d say this is easily my most controversial opinion about Romney, likely with many (after all, it was other Republican nomination rivals who first criticized Romney over Bain, as my post mentions). Still, I’ll not shy from controversial. The post captures a belief that I still hold strongly, in free and voluntary markets as an alternative to state power. Not perfect, but better than the alternatives, to my mind.

Looking at the reference to Obama, I’d not now say that Romney’s private career was better than Pres. Obama’s public one.  I think I could fairly say that about Romney’s GOP rivals, and now certainly Trump, but it’s a clear overstatement concerning Obama’s full time in office.

One can see, nationally and in this small town, how many big-government conservatives there are, demanding more and more for their favored businesses and associates. There are, it seems, very few small-government conservatives left.

I’d say big government conservatives are like locusts, eating whatever they find, but that would be unfair: I know of no case in which a locust ever stuffed itself into morbid obesity while insisting that business subsidies were an expression of free-market principles.

Does Mitt Romney Really Want to be President of the United States?, 9.18.2012:

About Romney’s remarks to a Boca Raton fundraiser: “Here was Romney in his element, in a money-man’s version of sitting at the end of a bar and philosophizing. That’s not a bad life, and in his investments, Romney’s created many opportunities for himself and others. There’s nothing wrong — there should be nothing wrong — with that pursuit.

It’s not, however, a life suited to politics. America has had many wealthy politicians, but among those of any success, they have all – I truly think all – shown more understanding of ordinary people than Romney shows. Without that understanding and empathy, Romney’s useless to his political party, or any political party. (Reagan and Kemp, for example, deeply believed in the talents of people generally.)

There’s much that’s good about a life spent in the boardroom. Romney should have stayed there.

I’ll stand by this: a preference for private enterprise does not mean a necessary suitability of private men for public life. Not every successful private man or woman is a good fit for a public role. Romney is an incomparably better man than Trump (even considering that to be better than Trump’s no difficult feat). Nonetheless, he wan’t suited for easy movement in public life the way other Republicans (Theodore Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Reagan) were.

In any event, Romney’s lack of a personal touch would matter less as a senator than as a presidential candidate or president.

Reason’s Interactive Nanny of the Month: Obama v. Romney, 10.1.2012:

[Quoting approvingly Reason‘s description] So will you vote for the the pro-drug war, pro-smoking ban, pro-health insurance mandate, pro-Patriot Act candidate who supports cracking down on medical marijuana and online poker? Or maybe you’ll pull the lever (well, click the screen) for the pro-drug war, pro-smoking ban, pro-health insurance mandate, pro-Patriot Act candidate who supports cracking down on medical marijuana and online poker.

All this seems quaint now, but quaint only if that term means lacking a sense of how dark our politics would soon become. I’d happily take either Obama or Romney over Trump. Thinking in 2012 that Romney and Obama were more of the same obscured fundamental difference between them, but (far worse) failed to see how much more dangerous our politics would become.

Which Romney for Wisconsin?, 10.4.2012:

Romney doesn’t need to win Wisconsin to help WISGOP candidates, but he needs to bring the race closer than it is now. He’ll only be able to bring the race closer if he presents himself each remaining day as he did in last night’s [note: that is, the first] debate.

An easy prediction, indeed: if Romney kept up a strong performance, likely he would have done himself some lasting good. He didn’t, and he didn’t.

Here we are, five years on, with something far worse before us. As what’s before us is worse, so many have tried to offer better: a Resistance and Opposition suited to these difficult days.

Update, 11.10.17, on Romney – he makes the right call on Roy Moore. Romney’s opinion should be universal; within his party, it’s not. (See The Disorder of (Alabama) Republicans).