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Our Laws Should Encourage Business Leaders to Become Cabinet Secretaries

One of the best disruptions of Donald Trump has been his decision to nominate many officials to the Cabinet who have been enormously successful in business. Such appointees have run major organizations and thus can use their substantial management experience to impose order on the sprawling government bureaucracy. They also bring the perspective of business into the heart of government. A commercial republic can thrive only if, from time to time, officials set about lifting off the dead weights that democratic practices tend to place on the economy.

It is thus disheartening, if not surprising, that many Democrats in the Senate now want to eliminate most of the tax law that facilitates the transition of business people to government.  This law permits appointees to an administration to defer their capital gains on the stock they must sell to avoid conflict of interest. It thus encourages wealthy individuals to take government posts, because otherwise they would face an unpalatable choice: Pay a huge capital gains bill or hold on to stock that would create conflicts of interest in their new positions. The legislation greatly aids in eliminating conflicts of interest, because in exchange for the tax deferral, appointees must put their money in treasuries or index funds.

Thus, it is not an interest in good government, but in insular government that is behind the push to change this law.One of the most striking aspects of the modern left-liberal agenda is the effort to create a politics run by and for the symbolic class—people who talk or write for a living. This impetus is most obviously demonstrated by the interest in campaign finance reform.  Such reform does not touch the very substantial influence of the media or of the academy  on the long term shape of politics, groups almost entirely on the left side of the political spectrum.  But campaign finance reform would curtail the capacity of those who create and improve our material world from using their own resources to rent the media and get their own views out the public.

The attempt to gut this sensible tax provision is yet another part of the effort to protect the power of symbolic class and make it harder for the sensibility of business to infuse government. Because academics and policy pundits generally do not face these difficult transition issues solved by this legislation. Certainly academics and policy analysts should be among those who are appointed to the executive branch. But it is a great benefit to our republic also to bring into government those who have created wealth not only for themselves but for the nation.

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