Why Government Should Not be Run Like a Business, Pt. 1

America has too many issues

By Josh Sager

 

In the past few decades, many politicians have propagated the idea of “running government like a business” in order to cut spending and reduce debt. This concept is fundamentally false due to the fact that governments and corporations have diametrically opposed goals and operate in entirely different manners.

The purpose of government is to provide for the common defense, ensure the rule of law, and to advance the common good. Some services are necessary for society to function and are incompatible with the private sector due to fairness issues as well as the free rider problem; these services are seen as fundamentals that should be provided to everybody regardless of their ability to pay. The military serves to ensure the populace’s safety from external threats such as invasion or terrorism; domestic law enforcement organizations, fire protection, and emergency services are all vital services that the government provides in order to ensure the rule of law and general safety inside of a country. Industrial/banking regulations, public education, government grants for research, and the national infrastructure are government-run programs intended to provide for the common good of society as a whole. The government exists to serve society through preserving order and providing services that cannot be effectively and equitably provided by the private sector. Governments are akin to beehives, where there are numerous smaller parts that exist in order to assist society as a whole, regardless of whether there is a benefit to the part.

The Different Purposes of Corporations and Government

The purpose of a vast majority of corporations is to make a profit for their investors; those that do not have a profit motive are considered non-profits and often exist to advocate social causes or perform charity work. Regardless of how a business makes money, whether it sells retail goods, develops new products, or provides services to consumers, it exists purely for the profit of those who own it. There is no requirement that a corporation provide services to those who cannot afford them, nor is there a requirement for a business to increase the public good. By cutting costs and more efficiently producing goods or performing services, a business competes with others and eventually grows larger. Corporations resemble amoebas in that they are shapeless, amoral masses that exist only to feed, grow, and consume other, smaller entities in competition for scarce resources.

The fundamental flaws in the ideal that government can be run like a business are the amoral nature of corporations and the massive free rider problems inherent to society.

The most basic flaw in the ideal of a government run like a business is the absolute disconnect in goals between governments and businesses. Corporations need to pay their workers enough to entice them to work, but they are not obligated to work to improve their workers’ wellbeing. Governments exist for the sole purpose of serving their citizens’ interests. This fundamental disconnect means that while government can be run in a business-like model to minimize costs, services to those who are disadvantaged will inevitably be cut. By cutting services to increase efficiency, equality inevitably suffers and the core ideal of government as a protector of all citizens is lost.

The Educational System

The educational system illustrates an example of the goal’s disconnect problem inherent to a government run like a business: A corporate outlook into public services leads to decreased costs -- but also to massive decreases in quality. Cost-cutting measures in public schools, such as reducing teacher compensation or decreasing supplies available to students, may reduce the overall price of education but also damage the quality of the service. Unfortunately, many citizens cannot afford private schools, thus they cannot find alternative education in the market and are stuck with a subpar education. Our country’s education system, like many other public services, will suffer greatly when the profit motive eclipses the service itself as the goal of the program. The goal of education should be education, not turning a profit by supplying defective services to those who are unable to attain alternative educations in the name of saving money.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post!

Do you like this post?

Showing 2 reactions

commented 2012-05-21 19:05:05 -0400 · Flag
why not just say it? government has a moral mission. if there is no moral mission, let the private sector do it. if life, freedom, justice, privacy, human dignity (moral issues) are on the line, then the public should be involved through representative democracy. the simple question to ask on any privatization question is: Is there a moral component here?" if “yes” then public. if “no” then private. easy peasy.
published this page in Blog 2012-05-21 17:48:00 -0400

We need your help,
you can signup with:




Get Involved Anytime:

Our Pack

Activity

signed Petition
signed Petition
signed Petition
signed Petition
signed Petition
signed Petition

View All