John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The CEO and His Castle

Posted on December 9, 2008

The CEO and His Castle



  Every man is a CEO.  And every CEO needs his own castle.



  That has been the trend over the last decade.  More and more Americans are starting their own small businesses, many forced to do so through restructuring and subcontracting. 



  When you start your own small business, you work harder.  You don’t have much time to slack off, because you have your future on the line.  It is easy to get lost in a huge bureaucracy.  It is easy to slack off, pad the expense account, take Fridays off.  Not so much when you own your own small business.



  And when you are the CEO of your own destiny, of course, you need your own castle.



  Over the last decade, more and more Americans have bought bigger and bigger houses, with taller fences, more rooms, more, fancy bathrooms, three-car garages.  If they haven’t moved out to the outer reaches suburbs, they have torn down smaller houses in the inner suburbs and built huge monstrosities that take up almost all available space in a lot, leaving no room for Johnny to play in the backyard.



  The castle building, however, is starting to ebb, as the credit crunch and the severe economic downturn makes castle building a bit harder to do.



  Castles are nice, but communities are better. 



  I think that we as a society are dealing with twin anxieties that have sprung from this CEO/castle trend.



  First, there is the economic anxiety that comes from the constant churn of a small business economy.  Small business are much more liable to go broke.  They can’t weather storms, like health problems, or high taxes or burdensome regulations, like big business can.  In stormy seas, a big cruiser can sail smoothly.  A small dinghy will likely get swamped.  That economic anxiety has caused more Americans to look for help from the government, especially when it comes to health care.



  Second, there is the social anxiety that comes from the isolation of living in a castle.  The world seems like a dangerous place.  Parents are desperately worried about their kids.  There is an irrational fear of crime.  There is fear of the new, of immigrants, of outsiders.



It is an easy response to a seemingly dangerous world to bring up the drawbridges, batten down the hatches, build higher walls, erect the latest alarm systems, and retreat to the comfort of the television set.  But that is exactly the wrong response.



  People need people to live normal, healthy lives.  No man can be an island.  Social isolation is bad.  Just look at all of the stories of abuse, of imprisonment, of slavery, of loneliness.  Living alone in a castle is no way to create a healthy society.



  For Republicans to renew themselves, they need to confront these two anxieties.  The idea of the rugged frontier individualist doesn’t work in this world of the CEO and the Castle.  Republicans need to support health care reform that will ease the economic anxiety of the small business class.  And they need to support ways to break down the wall of social isolation.  Many conservatives already understand this instinctively, as they go to church each Sunday.  They understand that community is not just about government.  It is about people needing people.