FT columnist Simon Kuper enlightens us on “Blair Disease, named for ex-prime minister Tony Blair: the growing propensity of former heads of government to monetise their service. Blair Disease is damaging but easily cured.”
If you are super-rich, you probably have an ex-leader working for you, like an overpaid tennis coach. Blair, for instance, has shilled for JPMorgan Chase, Qatar and Kazakhstan’s cuddly regime. Then there’s the modern ex-leader’s staple: giving paid speeches to rich people. ….
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy have terrible Blair Disease …. A year before Schröder left the chancellorship, he identified Vladimir Putin as a “flawless democrat”. Soon afterwards, as if by magic, Schröder was hired by the Russian gas company Gazprom. ….
Sarkozy leapt nimbly from ruling France to speaking at banking conferences. At a Goldman Sachs do in November he announced, in English, “I am ready to run a business” ….
“Replenishing the ol’ coffers,” as George W Bush put it, is an older tradition for US presidents. However, none has ever made out like Bill Clinton, who earned $89m from speeches from 2001 to 2011. ….
If George W Bush makes less, it’s because he rarely goes out. Even Republicans in Dallas, where he lives, seldom see him. My personal theory: Bush is hiding because he feels shame. His presidency failed on his own terms: he didn’t win his wars, and then almost destroyed capitalism. Worse, his vice-president pushed him around. Yet even Bush swiftly racked up $15m from ex-presidential speechifying. ….
It’s easy to cure Blair Disease: bar ex-leaders from doing paid work for private interests. This free measure would instantly deflate populism, keep experience inside government and attract a better class of person to the job.
Simon Kuper, “Another outbreak of Blair Disease“, Financial Times, 22 March 2014.