Entrpreneurs & Autocrats

Anyone who has ever owned their own business with no partners and no independent board is an autocrat.

Even the most inclusive business owners who seek advice from employees, spouses, and mentors still need to make the final decision and live with the consequences at some point. I know that I did for most of my working life. Though I have had partners at times, and we tried to make collaborative decisions, ultimately, I hated the collaboration part. I was much happier being a sole owner and playing my own hand.

Did I make poor decisions at times? I absolutely did and had to own them even to the point of a business or two closing. Most of us who have walked in those shoes for several years develop a few traits. One is a high measure of self-confidence. Two is the ability to forge ahead even when caution should be used. Three is to have a certainty of our decision even when others are telling us we are making a mistake.

Most of us never wanted to work in the corporate world or the bureaucracy of government. If by nature we don’t want to live within the confines of what we see as petty rules and constraints, there needs to be a strong ethical and moral code in place to keep us within a legal framework. Some entrepreneurs don’t have that and see themselves as special and above the law.

If we end up being in elected office, it is because we believe we can apply our entrepreneurial skills to running the government as a business. The business model is not Chase Bank but the one the newly elected official came from. Businesspeople who spent their careers in large public corporations can transition to government and do quite well. It is a harder move for entrepreneurs.

Government is the art of getting along…like the culture in big companies. Entrepreneurs have very little patience for building consensus for things. That is why the presidency of Donald Trump was such an absolute failure. Whether you consider him a business genius or not, he bristled under our form of government that was intentionally created to require getting the most buy-in from all stakeholders.

Once you walk away from compromise as both Republicans and Democrats have done in the past two decades, our system fails. Trump’s attempts at autocracy are nothing more than what a businessperson does to steam roll over opponents in the business world. Democracy wants the most buy-in, and if it takes a prolong period to bring a majority aboard, then our system is working as intended.

Many Americans become frustrated with the chaos associated with wrangling a consensus from people with so many different views. Some are willing to give up their own freedom to make the “trains run on time” so to speak. Politicians like Trump count on having enough followers who believe they are the only ones who can fix things. All that is necessary is to give the “Dear Leader” the authority to run rough shod over everything and everyone.

It is just the same philosophy these entrepreneurs turned elected officials have used their entire working lives. The government becomes just another small business to operate without regard for a board of directors or other stakeholders. It is how an autocracy is born.

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Thomas F Campenni

Currently lives in Stuart Florida and former City Commissioner. His career has been as a commercial real estate owner, broker and manger in New York City.