Government-business comparison a GOP farce
Since at least the first presidential campaign of former President Ronald Reagan in 1976, some conservative- and libertarian-leaning voices have clamored to “run government like a business.” It’s actually become such a standard that some of this year’s GOP candidates—notably former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain—actually made their business background a key qualification in their campaigns for president.
But it really is a misstep, because government is most decidedly not a business. Government doesn’t have the same goal, the same tools or the same purpose.
In fact, suggesting that the answer is to turn over government’s functions to business is to suggest that the social contract is a fiction, that all our attempts to pool our resources for the common good—from roads and schools to parks and health care—would be better served if we took an “every investor for him or herself” attitude.
Businesses succeed by stripping away services and costs that aren’t directly contributing to profit. But government is the ultimate nonprofit operation; its goal is not to maximize earnings for investors, but to maximize well-being for citizens.
As we follow the political campaigns, let’s bear in mind that business and government are two separate, co-existing institutions. Like our three branches of government, they are best kept separate from each other.