Republicanism is about giving people more personal freedoms, and gay marriage is one such freedom, says Ken Mehlman, the former head of the Republican National Committee. Therefore, Republicans should embrace gay marriage—at least ideologically. “The party of Lincoln ought to encourage the community that is built when two people who love each other decide they’re going to spend their whole lives together.” But anyone with a cursory understanding of American politics knows this not to be the case. The current leaders of the Republican Party need to “look in the mirror” and confront their conflicting ideologies, says Mehlman.
Mehlman left politics in 2007, came out as gay in 2010, and now works for the private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts. In his Big Think interview, Mehlman explains that though finance may be the only profession less popular than politics, private equity firms actually benefit society in very concrete ways. They are not “barbarians at the gate” that the media portrays them to be: “A problem in a lot of companies is the fact that they think short term and not long term. They think quarter to quarter, and because they depend for their capital on public markets, what their stock traded at each quarter was critically important. What private equity does is it tries to deal with those and some other problems, too.” Not only does this long-term thinking create more robust businesses, it forces them to focus on issues of sustainability.
An expert on the nexus between policy and business, Mehlman also explains why the current regulatory climate in Washington is bad for business. Regulation is to blame for the $3 trillion sitting on corporate balance sheets, he says. “If you’re the CEO of a company and you know that in the future, the cost of employing people is going to go up because healthcare legislation, you’ve heard that your taxes are likely to go up, you know that the cost of capital is likely to increase for lots of reasons—for all those reasons, you’re certainly thinking, I want to put some cash aside.”