Businessmen as Presidents: A Historical Circle, by Robert Shiller, Commentary, NY Times: With so much attention on the income divide between the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent..., it might seem that having enormous business wealth wouldn’t be a great qualification for election as president. And if such a candidate pledged to keep taxes low for the wealthy, he would appear to have no chance at all in a troubled economy.
Mitt Romney’s campaign has been showing that these factors may not be insurmountable. ... Still, Americans haven’t elected many businessmen as presidents. The principal examples come from the Roaring ’20s... You might think that the current economic slump would drain support for businessmen, as it did in the Great Depression. But there are differences. ...
For many voters this year, a central question is how to maintain what they consider as America’s greatness, its exceptionalism. They are concerned with both lowering the unemployment rate and creating good jobs — jobs that are exciting and can create substantial wealth. This attitude may be improving the odds for businesspeople seeking office.
If elected, Mr. Romney wants to enforce a general pro-business mandate and to bolster business confidence. That is quite possible. Still, any such confidence boost will most likely be offset by his promise to drastically cut government spending. The weight of evidence from studies of fiscal austerity indicates that, at least in times like these, it is very costly to economic activity. Big cuts now could easily plunge the country back into a recession.
Yes, many Americans admire business success and believe that business experience is a plus in a president. But Americans have usually also understood that other factors — like wise policies and strong leadership ability — are much more important.
He gives more credit to the "bolster business confidence" claim than I would.