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Huffington on “Real Time:” Empathy Is More Important Than Business Sense

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Posted on October 4 2010 2:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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A sound business acumen is not as important to proper governance as a well developed sense of empathy. So said Arianna Huffington on the latest edition of Real Time with Bill Maher.

The leftist media icon sat on the Real Time panel alongside Time magazine columnist Joe Klein (of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are “seditious” fame) and Marxist intellectual Cornel West. Wringing hands over the unwelcome presence of non-establishment Tea Party candidates in races across the country, Huffington and company demonstrated a complete disconnect from reality, reversing the rightful priorities of government.

Maher: This idea that people have that, if you’re a business man… this idea that, if you’re rich, you’re smart – and that if you’re a business person somehow you can magically fix the economy – that’s bullshit isn’t it?

Klein: Government isn’t a business. I mean, it’s not run for profit, obviously.

Maher: Other than Mayor Bloomberg of New York, who I think is a good mayor and a good man, I can not name one other business person – can you? – who ever successfully became a political leader.

Huffington: You see, the problem is not whether you’re a businessman… or whatever. The problem is; are you empathetic? Are you in touch with what’s happening? That’s what is missing right now, the empathy gene. And when we hear that the president wants ultimately to have a chief of staff who’s a business person, that’s not really what’s missing. It’s not as if we’re not doing what we need to do for business. The problem is we’re not doing what we need to do for the 26 million people who are out of work. There are going to be 3 million more foreclosures this year.

There’s so much wrong with this exchange, it’s tough to pick a place to start. Let’s begin with Klein, whose point is apparently so axiomatic he need not state it. Does anyone truly believe the government is a business? Is that what candidates assert when they cite their business experience? Or is their point that good business principles should be applied to government?

It is true, government is not run for profit. We can thank Klein for sharing this profound insight. However, there are untold non-profit organizations which are run as a business, lest they become fiscally insolvent and need to close their doors. The same business principles which apply to such non-profits apply to government.

Maher’s inability to recall a business person other than Bloomberg who has gone on to become a successful political leader is hardly evidentiary, and depends on one’s definition of success. Accepting as a reasonable measure the capacity to get elected and serve effectively  in office, Mitt Romney is a prominent example. Regardless, the question is not whether a business person has successfully gone into politics, but whether business expertise would be beneficial.

Speaking to that, Huffington says no. It’s far more important that our political leaders have empathy and understand the plight of the downtrodden. Presumably, Huffington would like such empathy to result in greater unemployment benefits and bailouts for those facing foreclosure.

Isn’t that exactly the sort of policy which has been pursued the past two years? Huffington talks as though we’ve had an excess of fiscal discipline, a government dominated by tight-wadded penny-pinchers. The opposite is true.

With empathy as their priority, it’s no wonder leftists want to alienate business from government. We all know what would happen to a business were it to place empathy before fiscal responsibility. A hot dog vendor whose empathy toward the hungry drove him to drop prices below cost, or give his product away for free, would soon find himself bankrupt. Yet that is precisely Huffington’s prescription for government, care about the downtrodden at the expense of keeping the country in business.

If Huffington had the slightest sense, she would understand that prioritizing business and bringing its acumen to government is the best way to help those with whom we empathize. Contrary to the presumption of many a so-called liberal, conservatives value government. In fact, they value it more than the Left, since they seek policy which will ensure its perpetual function. Placing emotion above fiscal responsibility will bankrupt the nation, undermine the function of government, and put more people out of work than there already are.

I, for one, would rather be on the receiving end of a paycheck than bureaucratic empathy. Pity doesn’t pay the rent.

Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota’s North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

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