For years, those running for political office, particularly conservatives, used the phrase “Government should be run like a business.”
Let’s take a look at that.
On the surface, it sounds good: business has to be very realistic about costs, minimizing the cost of producing and distributing the product or service it provides, while reaching the broadest possible customer base.
So what could be bad about that?
Virtually all businesses in the United States are corporations. The main benefit of forming a corporation is to reduce liability. That is, to avoid being responsible for things when they go wrong. The primary legal responsibility of a corporation is to maximize the return on investment of the stockholders. This outweighs any other objective, in law as well as in action.
This is so deeply ingrained in our legal and social system, that so long as the corporation (by the decisions of the board, directors, managers, etc.) acts to maximize return on investment it is effectively immune from criminal prosecution. They may be subject to civil penalties, but not criminal.
Case law is replete with instances of corporate decisions that were known to cause multiple deaths, and yet no person or corporation has been called to criminal court to answer. Perhaps the first well-known case is the Chevrolet Corvair, as described in the 1965 book “Unsafe at any speed” by Ralph Nader. So, one characteristic of “business” in the United States is that they can make products that injure or even kill people, knowing they will injure or kill people, but the businesses are not held criminally liable.
It will be interesting to see if anyone (corporation of person) is held criminally responsible for the deaths of those who were lost in the gulf “oil spill”.
Instances where service or product quality or safety has decreased over the last few years are so common that we have all had our own experiences with them. It is clear that service and quality are not important, so long as sales are adequate to keep up profits. In fact, lowering costs (the usual result of which is lower quality) is a sure way to increase profits. Of course, lower quality and poor service tend to drive customers away, so what can a business do to maintain and increase the customer base?
Perhaps the most astounding example of efforts by corporations to insure customers is the recent Federal “health care reform” resulting in a legal requirement that virtually everyone buy heath insurance from a commercial insurance company regardless of quality of product or service.
Again, case law is replete with instances of corporate decisions in the health insurance industry that resulted directly in the death of individuals, commonly by denying coverage that was in fact included in the contract of insurance, or delaying it so long that the insured person died, and yet no health insurance corporation, or individual, has been tried in criminal court for murder, or even manslaughter.
So, to review: Businesses in the United States are geared to maximize benefit for those who have invested the most money in them, ignoring laws, product quality, and even product safety, manipulating the Federal Government into forcing “free citizens” to become customers.
If we expect the government to be run like a business, does that mean that government bureaus will become geared to maximize benefit for those who have invested the most money in them (by buying politicians and bribing officials), ignoring laws, product quality (i.e. public service), and even product safety (e.g. safety regulations), manipulating the laws to force “free citizens” to become customers?
Oh, wait, we already do that.
Maybe that’s why we so rarely hear the phrase “Government should be run like a business” anymore. It already is.
What do you think?