Mitt Romney has been the ultimate political chameleon. He has reversed every significant political position he held when he was Governor of Massachusetts. But, Robert Reich writes, there is a coherent philosophy behind his reversals: Reich calls that philosophy Romneyism:
Despite its contradictions and ellipses, Romneyism has an internal coherence. It is different from conservatism, because it does not intend to conserve or protect any particular institutions or values. It is also distinct from Republicanism, in that it is not rooted in traditional small-town American values, nationalism, or states’ rights.
Reich goes on to enumerate the ten pillars of Romneyism. All of them are important. But the first three are the core upon which the other seven hang:
1. Corporations are the basic units of society. Corporations are people, and the overriding purpose of an economy is to maximize corporate profits. When profits are maximized, the economy grows fastest. This growth benefits everyone in the form greater output, better products and services, and higher share prices.
2. Workers are a means to the goal of maximizing corporate profits. If workers do not contribute to that goal, they should be fired. If they cannot then find other work that helps maximize profits in another company, their wages must be too high, and they must therefore accept steadily lower wages until they find a job.
3. All factors of production – capital, physical plant and equipment, workers – are fungible and should be treated the same. Any that fail to deliver high competitive returns should be replaced or discarded. This keeps an economy efficient. Fairness is and should be irrelevant.
What’s interesting about these first three pillars is that they are a throwback to the capitalism of the nineteenth century. This is the capitalism of William Blake’s “dark satanic mills.” This is a throwback to Mr. Peabody’s coal mines and Mr Carnegie’s steel mills. Romneyism is a hymn to John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil and a complete rejection of Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal.
Romney — with his two Harvard degrees — wants to lead the nation backwards. This, he says, is his better idea.