The great American experiment of self-government is poised for yet another chapter… can government be run like a business?
Let’s take a look. Starting with how we define the purpose of government and business and are they driving to the same outcome?
What is the purpose of government? This can vary widely depending on the country, so I’ll focus on where I live – The United States. The Constitution of the United States actually defines the intention of government for our country. In The Preamble, we declare…
“We the People of the United States, in Order to …
form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
To sum it up, government must defend the rights and meet the needs of its current and future population – ourselves and our posterity. For all of our people. A not just for the people right now, but for future generations. Successful government must think near-term and long term and make decisions accordingly.
Another key element is budget – our government is a non-profit enterprise. Goverement is not meant to generate profits, it’s meant to break even. It’s also not meant to run at a deficit… but that is a longer conversation for another day.
So that’s government. What about business? What is the purpose of business? Again, I’ll look to the free-market capitalism we have in the US. Our economy is designed for business deliver goods and services based on market need and priced by what the market and consumers will pay. Businesses are also expected to manage their costs, treat their employees well, innovate new products, and move the economy forward. In our economy, businesses are expected to make money for the owners and shareholders.
If the products or services a business offers are not in demand or are overpriced, consumers will go elsewhere. Unless changes are made – different products, better products, lower prices – profits will decrease, the business will falter, and the business may close. Business also don’t typically target an entire market, they focus on a particular segment of customers and know they will not meet the needs of the entire population.
These are the key differences – different outcomes. Governments don’t have the luxury of closing or ignoring portions of the populace. Government must go on and it must go on for everyone. The government responsibilities laid out in must be upheld. When government falters, something else will replace the failed system. When governments fail to meet the needs of its citizens, the people demand change – think China, the Arab spring, and ahem, Trump’s victory.
One consistent appeal of Trump’s campaign was the expectation that he would be able to run America like a successful business. The Trump cabinet is packed with nominees with extensive big business (and big military) experience. Hence… let the experiment begin.
Can we get to a point of fiscal discipline and balanced budgets AND promote the general Welfare, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of Liberty for ourselves and future generations?
I’m hopeful and skeptical. Are you?