Here's Fergie's colleague Will.i.am:
People say Romney ran businesses and that means he should be president...But America isn’t a business. America needs to be like a parent – what’s good for our kids, where are they going to school, how can you guide them?
He's right to reject the metaphor of president as CEO. Countries are not businesses. Businesses have a single common purpose, but countries comprise millions of people with separate aims. And - of course - the government's finances should not be run as a CEO would run a business's finances.
However, he's wrong to invoke the metaphor of government as parent.In doing this, he's not being at all eccentric; George Lakoff devoted a whole book to the metaphor of nation as family. But this is another bad metaphor. Citizens are not children who need nuturing or discipline from a parent - or at least, if they are, the point needs arguing for and Mr i.am is committing the petitio principii fallacy.
Both metaphors are wrong because they fail to see that politics is, in Oakeshott's words (pdf), a "specific and limited activity" aimed at "enabling people to pursue the activities of their own choice with the minimum frustration." This entails setting general rules and solving problems of collective action, which requires a different mindset from either CEO or parent.
Both these metaphors, though, are more than misleading. They can be pernicious, in two ways.
First, both are illiberal. CEOs and parents, albeit for different reasons, both restrict freedom. If we naturally think of governments as parents or as CEOs we will thus be more willing to accept statist infringements of freedom than we should be.
Secondly, CEOs and parents are both part of hierarchical relationships.Using such metaphors thus encourages us to take for granted what should be questioned - the existence of hierarchy.
Both left and right should regret this. The left should do so because the ubiquity of such metaphors squeezes out of discourse alternative ways of seeing political activity - as a collaborative, egalitarian, fully democratic, activity. The right should do so because hierarchical metaphors, associated as they are with winners and losers, discourage us from seeing that social interactions in the marketplace can benefit both parties.
My point here is, or should be, a trivial one. Language shapes thought and therefore activity, and bad metaphors have bad effects.