By now, in these last remaining days before the election of 2012, we have learned enough about the beliefs of the Republican presidential candidate to see them as a worldview all its own -- a kind of creed that explains Mitt Romney. Those who say he has no principles are selling him short.
Despite its contradictions and ellipses, Romneyism has an internal coherence. It is different from conservatism, because it does not intend to conserve or protect any particular institutions or values. It is also distinct from Republicanism, in that it is not rooted in traditional small-town American values, nationalism, or states' rights.
The 10 guiding principles of Romneyism are:
1. Corporations are the basic units of society. Corporations are people, and the overriding purpose of an economy is to maximize corporate profits. When profits are maximized, the economy grows fastest. This growth benefits everyone in the form greater output, better products and services, and higher share prices.
2. Workers are a means to the goal of maximizing corporate profits. If workers do not contribute to that goal, they should be fired. If they cannot then find other work that helps maximize profits in another company, their wages must be too high, and they must therefore accept steadily lower wages until they find a job.
3. All factors of production -- capital, physical plant and equipment, workers -- are fungible and should be treated the same. Any that fail to deliver high competitive returns should be replaced or discarded. This keeps an economy efficient. Fairness is and should be irrelevant.
4. Pollution, unsafe products, unsafe working conditions, financial fraud, and other negative side effects of the pursuit of profits are the price society pays for profit-driven growth. They should not be used as excuses to constrain the pursuit of profits through regulation.
5. Individual worth depends on net worth -- how much money one has made, and the value of the assets that money has been invested in. Any person with enough intelligence and ambition can make a fortune. Failure to do so is sign of moral and intellectual inferiority.
6. People who fail in the economy should not be coddled. They should not receive food stamps, Medicaid, or any other form of social subsidy. Coddling leads to a weaker society and a weaker economy.
7. Taxes are inherently bad because they constrain profit-making. It is the right and responsibility of individuals and corporations to exploit every tax loophole they (and their tax attorneys) can find in order to pay the lowest taxes possible.
8. Politics is a game whose only purpose is to win. Any means used to win the game is legitimate even if it involves lying and cheating, as long as it gains more supporters than it loses.
9. Democracy is dangerous because it is forever vulnerable to the votes of a majority intent on capturing the wealth of the successful minority, on whom the economy depends. The rich must therefore do whatever is necessary to prevent the majority from exercising its will, including spending large sums of money on lobbyists and political campaigns. The most virtuous among the rich will go a step further and run for president.
10. The three most important aspects of life are family, religion, and money. Patriotism is a matter of guarding our economy from unfair traders and undocumented immigrants, rather than joining together for the common good. We owe nothing to one another as citizens of the same society.
On Tuesday we'll decide whether these should be the guiding principles of America.