CEO Experience

Via Zoe Pollock, Jamelle takes note of the widely accepted notion that private executive experience is necessarily superior to public executive experience:


More broadly, I'm a little bothered by the implications of this "all you need is a CEO" rhetoric. Government service is hard, and even low-profile elected officials have a tough job ahead of them. Underpaid (considering their credentials) and rarely appreciated, they have the mostly unenviable job of writing laws, hashing out legislation, and trying to represent the interests and aspirations of their constituents. Not everyone can do this, and it diminishes lawmakers to tout "business experience" as the only thing you need to successfully run (or participate in) a government. You don't have to be sympathetic to politicians (though I am) to see that this is a problem.

I think outsiders can bring all sorts of new perspectives to a problem that lifers tend to miss. But I don't think that's a function of the innate superiority of the private sector, so much as its a function of fresh eyes. 

Obviously, you see this in school reform. The old superintendent title is gone, now replaces by the honorific CEO. It was, I think in large measure, part and parcel to Cathie Black's nomination to run New York's schools, the implicit message being that even an executive without a whit of investment in the public schools, will automatically know more than any old "public servant."

There's probably a history to this notion that operating the levers of government isn't actually a skill, so much as its a function of common sense. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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