Dallas and Washington

by Don Boudreaux on March 31, 2010

in Entertainment, Health, Myths and Fallacies, Politics

The Wall Street Journal reports that “The White House claims CEOs are reducing the value of their companies and returns for shareholders merely out of political pique” – and, in particular, that a White House staffer complains that the writedowns are being done merely (in the staffer’s words) “to embarrass the President and Democrats.”

I’m reminded of the old t.v. show Dallas.

In that primetime soap opera, oilman J.R. Ewing routinely used his company’s assets to carry out personal vendettas on his enemies, with no regard for how these actions affected Ewing Oil’s bottom line.¬† And, indeed, these vendettas seldom seemed to reduce profitability.

It’s no surprise that this silly Hollywood view of business and business people is shared by the political class: like Hollywood, Washington’s chief talent is entertaining the masses with make-believe and with infantile morality tales in which cardboard heroes do battle with cardboard villains.

UPDATE: Thanks to Daniel Kuehn for alerting me to this great post by Megan McArdle – which has what I’m sure is the best line I’ll read all day:

And I’ve watched congressional hearings. ¬†There’s no chance that four CEO’s are going to explain the accounting code to the fine folks in Congress; explaining how to boil water would challenge the format.

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