I wrote the following in response to a view I saw on facebook, you can watch it here: “The CEO President”
The United States is a republic, not a democracy, republics are generally structured similarly to businesses. We do not have a direct say in the organization or operation of our government, we elect folks to do this for us, and there are some really good reasons for this. Yeah it can go wrong from time to time but in general it works pretty well (and has for almost 250 years). You also have to believe it’s the government’s job to provide healthcare and whatnot for this video to make any sense, but lets set aside the role of the government for now.
In business, you’re generally tasked with doing for the greatest good for your stakeholders. ‘Stakeholders’ does indeed include shareholders, but it also includes your employees, your customers, society, and the governments where you do business. There’s a complex interplay between the many diverse entities that your business effects that you constantly have to account for in all of your decision making because if some stakeholders aren’t happy it negatively impacts others and hampers your ability to make money as a business (If all your employees quit you can’t make money, if the government hates you you can’t operate, if your shareholders hate you you can’t raise money, if society hates you no one buys your products). This video’s representation of businesses is pretty infantile and wrong in my opinion and really does a disservice to the audience. Government doesn’t need to be run for profit to be run ‘like a business’. If you account for stakeholders it gives governmental organizations a lot of leeway to do things and make decisions that a business probably wouldn’t. Their example of the postal service is a good one for illustrating some of the differences between government and corporations I will admit. I say all this not ignoring the terrible things that some poorly run businesses do. The market punishes these businesses routinely and they do not last very long at all if they stop serving all of their stakeholders.
When most conservatives say “Government should be run like a business” it’s not about profit (One would think this would be obvious, outside of hyperbole, we don’t want the government competing with private business) it’s about stewardship of resources. For a business if you’re not operating efficiently, your customers wont be happy and the market has ways to punish you. If you’re the government there’s no similar motivation to do well with the resources you have. For business, you need to maximize the resources you have to produce the most amount of value for your stakeholders possible (Not just profit, all your stakeholders). My vision of a government that’s run like a business is a well oiled efficient machine, effectively utilizing debt to maximize value, serving it’s intended (and limited) purpose, using minimal resources to do it, and anything left over goes back to the people. Think about it like a mutual insurance company or something similar. The people pay into it for the common benefit, but each year a dividend is payed out to the members from the profits or excess funds in the organization. It’s serving it’s purpose efficiently, and giving back to it’s members whatever is not needed. A government that operated in the same way would be awesome! But instead we’re cursed with “use it or lose it” budgeting, constant expansion of powers and role, and constant deficits.
If you want a really good idea what our government’s job is, according to the people that founded it, and wrote our governing documents the federalist papers explain every point of the constitution, the federal government, and the reasoning behind all of it. Really good reading for any citizen, honestly I really think it should be required reading every 5 years .
Going back to the governments role, if the government operated as I outlined above, I wouldn’t have any problem with it providing healthcare, security, etc. but it doesn’t, and I personally think that the free market (Truly free markets, not the travesty of crony capitalism we see in those industries today) can do a way better job than the bloated leviathan of a government we have today.