Since I have been of the mind to pay attention to politics, and I am certain long before, I have heard from politicians and politicians-to-be that government should be run like a business. I have heard that government needs to be more efficient, it needs to treat money like we who have to live and work do.
We are inherently different than the system of government. Business is inherently different than government.
Think of it like a system with a purpose.
A business is a system whose purpose is to generate money. What other purpose does it have at its core? Sure, some businesses and organizations have other purposes but by far, the vast majority of businesses exist to make money, for the owners, for the shareholders, or perhaps as tax dodges so that someone doesn’t have to pay out money on the other side.
A household is a system with a purpose. Its purpose is to provide basic needs for people who work to earn money, and use that money to pay to maintain the household. It serves the householders who are part of the same system. A household would not work if it were maintained with the purpose of generating money. I don’t even know how that would work.
A government is a system with a purpose. Government’s purpose is to serve the people. It serves them by building them infrastructure so that they can carry on business and householding. It sets policies for imports and exports and regulates how businesses can treat workers. It regulates what persons can do to each other with the purpose of creating a civil society in which everyone can carry on business and householding. It prevents overreach of many aspects of society, and necessarily so, it serves humans.
Government to a degree facilitates everything that happens in a society. Government can’t go bankrupt like a corporation and be dissolved and assets sold to pay debts. Government can’t be sold like a business or a house. Government can’t buy other governments. A government cannot be run like a business because it doesn’t create wealth or serve to generate money, it distributes it by its very nature. It collects money via taxes and fees and provides services based on what needs to be accomplished to move the society forward.
Unlike a business, government serves the people. Unlike money, the best needs met for people do not lie in what makes the most money. There are inherent and necessary inefficiencies. Because government controls so much, it needs inherent drogues to keep it from commanding everything in its path. It needs to apply drogues to businesses and householders so that they may not overstep their bounds also.
Consider the Senate of the United States of America. According to James Madison, "The use of the Senate is to consist in proceeding with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch." The Senate was necessarily less efficient than the House, more deliberative, less apt to act with haste, a necessary and inherent inefficiency. At this point in time, progress in the senate has slowed to a crawl because some senators value the business of money more than they value the business of serving the people. While this is a seriously annoying hang-up, it is an inherent necessary inefficiency to keep the government from overreaching in faster times.
Inefficiency in government prevents great evils from coming to pass if they work right. As a price for this, great goods are also slowed.
The justice system works similarly. In order that the minimum number of innocent people are dealt with unjustly, sometimes a known criminal must be released because he was not read his rights when he was arrested or because proper procedure was not followed in some other aspect. We complain about these miscarriages of justice because we know a guilty party got away with something. How much more would we complain if we the innocent party were unjustly prosecuted for the same crime? It is a necessary and inherent inefficiency that keeps the system from running amuck.
Democracy itself is likewise inherently inefficient. Why spend so much time debating and arguing and legislating in one direction and then another when we could have some glorious all powerful leader who could make changes to our society en masse? Because though that kind of government is far more efficient at getting things done, it is also inherently unjust, or so history would tell us. Democracy, when it works correctly, allows people to govern themselves and move in a direction that generally has the best interests of the society as a whole.
As an aside, let me cut you libertarians, corporatists, plutocrats, autocrats, and republicans off at the pass before you try to tell me that democracies are inherently evil and that the majority will eventually confiscate rights and freedom from the minority. I have done my best to test that assertion, and I have found it to be categorically false. I even had a libertarian try to tell me that Hitler was democratically elected. It’s simply false. I can’t find an example where a democracy has confiscated rights from a minority. If you can provide me one, I’d be happy to consider it, but expect to defend your assertion.
Yes, we all know government is inefficient. We try to make it more efficient. We want it to work for the benefit of all citizens. But to do that, there are some things it can’t do efficiently and we need to accept that. It shouldn’t be wasteful, but some waste is inherent in a system that serves people. A system that serves money is allowed to be far more ruthless.
When government becomes ruthless and cold, you know it is serving money and not the people. When moneyed interests make plans for government, you know they are seeking to change government so that it serves money and not the people.
But it needs to be inefficient. It requires, and was designed with, a certain necessary inherent level of inefficiency so that it would fulfill its purpose in serving the people and not the money.
I eventually plan to start a business where one of the stated purposes is to provide jobs, to serve people. To do that, there will have to be a necessary inherent inefficiency introduced fundamentally into the system so that the sole purpose of the business is not simply to make money, but to serve the people working there.
This post serves to further one of my overall messages that catchphrases, soundbites, and litmus tests are truly useless to our representative democracy. The truth lies in in-depth study, discussion, understanding, and reason. The truth and the best good for the society and our nation lies in seeing every side of an issue, in not yelling, not offering incendiary arguments, and not offering catchphrases in place of reasoned discussions and compromises. Nuance is as important as progress. Depth of understanding is as important as passing a bill. It’s an inherent necessary inefficiency, that we have to slow down and think about what we are doing.