Knowledge may be an overrated commodity
JOHN REINIERS, More Than WordsIn an 1892 Sherlock Holmes' mystery Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote these modest words for our hero: "My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know."
Published: October 21, 2012
Published: October 21, 2012
Lots of luck Sherlock, but nobody knows everything – even geniuses. Expertise is usually limited to one field. And that includes presidents of prestigious universities, and most certainly any President. It is ideas that count.
The U.S. President – just like the top gun in any university who needs academic specialists to chair every department – needs a virtual army of knowledgeable experts to staff the never-ending bureaucracies of government.
So what does a President – or governor or mayor for that matter – bring to the table? The Japanese have a saying for that: "Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on an ass's back."
And that wisdom usually comes from experience and common sense.
Experience tells wise leaders to start with an open mind, identify the big picture, then maybe a few big ideas. In the political world this has become virtually impossible since the major parties – particularly Democrats – are nothing more than cobbled-together diverse single-issue coalitions.
The best a President can hope for is to offer a framework for a manageable number of big ideas, and then have his staff of knowledgeable experts marshal the facts to test an idea and figure out options for contingencies – even opportunities as unforeseen events unfold. (For example the global economy is too fluid to be absolutely predictable.)
In the first presidential debate Governor Romney used PBS and Big Bird as symbolic of the need to prioritize taxpayer subsidies to get government spending under control – a big idea. President Obama and the progressives transformed the entire debate into Big Bird – a small idea – thus trivializing the debate and Obama as a leader.
Sesame Workshop is a lucrative enterprise – $211 million in sales of toys made in China with a CEO of this "non-profit" earning close to $1 million in total annual compensation. Romney's point was Sesame Street would do well without public funding – money borrowed from China which also profits from making the toys.
Democrats historically make this kind of attack on mean spirited Republicans to pander to women and young voters who are more likely to be Democrats; the theory being that these two groups are less interested in jobs and the economy, and more interested in social issues.
The wise leader – who, after all, is sitting on the front – not the back of the donkey – doesn't have to demonstrate knowledge of every obscure fact as did Sherlock Holmes. Like a general or executive of any large, complex operation, a President needs to articulate with conviction a mission statement encapsulating a big idea – a national goal – which would be the equivalent of a general winning a war.
Ironicallhy, President Obama can't do that, because his goal – his one big idea – a transformed America – is antithetical to our traditional American ideals. That is, a big government-centered political system and a new culture that deemphasizes, and at times demonizes business – the wealth creating private sector – which ironically helps fund his grandiose scheme – a quasi-socialist state. He can hardly admit that to Congress and the people. So he rules through a far left bureaucracy, his czars and the brilliant use of executive orders.
It works. Capitalism and the private sector have been successfully vilified by Democrats for generations – a lifetime for most Americans. Unfortunately, the politically pragmatic big banks on Wall Street, who have an obscene and disproportionate number of the über-wealthy, have been successfully labeled as Republicans, despite the fact that they have been in all administrations. Obama got more Wall Street cash contributions in 2008 than did Republicans. Goldman Sachs was the Democrat's money machine for years.
It's too late now, but one big idea that Gov. Romney and Republicans needed to articulate was to reintroduce capitalism to America as the mother's milk of a free and prosperous society. Stated simply, a country needs wealth – not taxes – to create the capital necessary for investment and jobs to build a strong economy. Nobody likes the rich, but poor countries don't have jobs. And that wealth needs to be in the hands of entrepreneurs – not Wall Street.
Obama's commitment is to redistribute this wealth – not let the private sector invest it. This is why business and jobs flee socialist countries. Adam Smith, the father of economics, had the answer in 1776, before the word capitalism was coined.
Major speeches on the need for wealth creation for investment in high tech manufacturing would open the door for other speeches such as the need for STEM courses in higher education to allow the U.S. compete globally for high paying jobs in this knowledge economy; and the need for a comprehensive immigration policy to include a point-based system based on the education and skills of the person seeking the visa; not a policy of promoting reunification of Mexican families.
A simple example of a wealth creator would be Steve Jobs, considered to have been one of the greatest innovators in the history of modern capitalism. Apple Computers is the world's largest technology company and the most valuable company in the world – even more valuable than any nasty Big Oil company. Count the number of jobs Jobs created. (Pun intended.)
To his credit Romney is using small business as a metaphor for capitalism and job creation to avoid even more vilification by Obama, but the time is ripe for a basic education of the voter in history and economics, given that many voters now sense that Obama's policies really have failed, and four more years won't help dig us out of this hole.
Come to think of it, Romney could paraphrase that line from Sherlock Holmes after all: "My name is Mitt Romney. It is my business to know what Barack Obama doesn't know."
A bit pretentious, but on the mark.
John Reiniers, a regular columnist for Hernando Today, lives in Spring Hill.