Business and politics: They are different

Assume this wild and entirely hypothetical situation. San Miguel Corp. completes a
successful, but bitter and unfriendly, majority-ownership takeover of property developer Megaworld Corp.

We would expect that San Miguel Vice Chairman, President and COO Ramon S. Ang would then meet with Megaworld executives and, perhaps, other employees. It is likely that Ang’s remarks would speak of a brighter future working together, and almost certainly the phrase “one big happy family”. Disgruntled employees in this situation can affect making money and profits. That’s business.

Crime boss Al Capone in the movie The Untouchables says this: “I want you to find this nancy-boy Eliot Ness, I want him dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground! I wanna go there in the middle of the night, and I wanna piss on his ashes!” Federal law-enforcement agent Ness is a threat to the power—and money-making ability—of Capone. That’s politics.

The discussion that we enjoy having is whether a career businessman or a career politician is most qualified and suitable to be the leader of a nation. This is a false argument. The most important quality is experience in executive management, whether in a corporation or government. That is why in business, people move up the chain of command. You don’t go from best “Sales in Company History” to CEO in one jump.

The difference between politics and business is that business success is based on money. However, there are two things about this. Wealth, even as it is being accumulated, must be protected. Business worries first about sliding backward, and then concerns itself with moving forward. The other aspect is that a business can grow and prosper, even as its competitors are also growing and prospering. It is not a zero-sum game.

Politics is exclusively about power, with any financial rewards coming only after the power is gained. And it is not a zero-sum game. There is always a winner and a loser, and that is what elections are about. Political power must always be taken from someone else who loses the power. While in our example of San Miguel and Megaworld, a top Megaworld executive who aspires to be the president may still be able to compete equally against a San Miguel executive for the top spot.

Decisions will likely be made on what is in the best interest of the company. Unfortunately, political decisions are often, if not usually, made for what is in the best interests of the individual players.

Of course, both the company and country president must be able to follow the advice of the Godfather, Vito Corleone: “‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”.

The absolute political chaos in the US—which will soon deteriorate into increasing waves of social unrest—proves the point. Any person who enters the presidency with a “business attitude” either quickly learns and adjusts to the fact the politics is a hundred times more cutthroat and ruthless than business. Or crashes and burns in a sea of flames.