Readers Weigh In: Should Government Be Run Like a Business?

It seems to be the age-old question. Some people think government spending is out of hand, and some think we aren’t spending nearly enough. Some want government to get as small and lean as possible; others want to see it grow and add more services.

I’ll have some thoughts to share next week, but in the spirit of Reader Thursday (my new and unofficial name for my every-other-week reader questions), I’d like to hear what you think.

Some Ideas to Consider

  • Do you think that government already runs like a business?
  • If not, what would government look like if it was based on a business model?
  • Why should we (or the government) care how businesses are modeled?
  • What exactly is a “business model?”
  • What specifically would you change to make government fit the mold?
  • What differences can you notice between state, local, and federal governments and their relative success based on their chosen model?

Your Turn

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say! Share your thoughts on this topic below. The best comments will once again be featured in my follow-up post next week.

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10 thoughts on “Readers Weigh In: Should Government Be Run Like a Business?

  1. To me, running something like a business means that you should have a balanced budget at the end of the day.

    It’s tough for businesses to borrow money these days, yet the government prints money like nothing, getting us deeper and deeper into debt.

    Businesses are struggling and getting leaner and more efficient in response. Government is getting fatter and bigger, and the last time I equated government with efficiency is…ha! never.

    As long as the people of this country don’t give a damn, government will continue to do what they do. Unless we demand effective government, we’re not gonna get it.

    1. Yes, many businesses have definitely gotten leaner due to the recession. It’s absolutely necessary, because if a business cannot meet payroll, it will experience a quick death.

      Government, on the other hand, has the power to print more money or borrow incredible amounts, leaving future generations to pay for it. Is this really the right thing to do?

  2. The government is definitely not run like most private businesses. Private businesses have an incentive that is more or less in alignment with the the objective of their shareholders.

    But, politicians and bureaucrats have incentives very different from the voters (influenceds by lobbyists and personal fiefdom ambitions) because of which they are run very differently from private businesses.

    1. Manshu, you make a great point. Really, the only way we as citizens have any say is through the voting process, and that only happens every 4 years. I think most Americans are too busy to really look at each candidate’s record, accounting for the rate of re-election of our representatives. People would rather maintain the status quo than try to figure something out for themselves.

  3. I think the government runs like a business that tries too hard to please the stockholders regardless of their views or business knowledge and in order to please all the stockholders, the business suffers. They concentrate more on what their actions look like at the time then what their actions will effect in the long run.

    1. Many proponents of Bush saw his actions as having a principled approach – ignoring the trends of the day and going with what he thought was right for a long-term approach. Whether that’s true or not is another story, but if it is – you can see what kind of unpopularity went along with it.

  4. I think most entrepreneurs who start businesses and become successful are the ones that have a very good understanding of both economics and finances. I believe a lot(not all) of politicians have the least understanding of both. Take Bush for example, when he was owner of the Texas rangers and Oil Exec, he was very good at getting other people to invest their money with very little in return on there investments. Our president now has been very successful at showing people how others can take care of them (Social Programs) but what has he produced? There is nothing wrong with being involved in Social Programs, but what is our plan as a country to reduce the deficit and actually balance the budget? He believes in taxing the successful businesses that are creating the jobs…

    I think a lot of businesses care about making a profit so that they can 1) stay in business 2) make more money 3) keep jobs for people. Politicians these day say we need to work for the good of the people and they look down on self interest, but ask yourself how do we know when our government is acting altruistically? We don’t and typically they don’t. Their self interest is to become reelected. Those decisions that result from that motive don’t always result in whats best for the city, state, US, etc.

    With all that being said…The Government needs to be run like a business, they would see that they have to large of a payroll (large government) and would have to cut departments that aren’t run efficient(smaller government). They would stop having to charge their customers(tax payers) a crazy amount of money for a service they could charge at a lower price and get even better service.

    Just my 2 cents – Great Post!

    1. “Their self interest is to become reelected. Those decisions that result from that motive don’t always result in whats best for the city, state, US, etc.” – I think you hit the nail on the head there, as did Manshu. Most things in life are about motivation and incentives.

      If the electorate has lost interest in choosing those who will make the best decisions, and instead choose those most popular, those aligned with their party, or simply someone their neighbor tells them about – what recourse do we have as a country? We are self-destroying our own future with our ignorance, but none of us seems to care the least bit about it!

      Maybe it’s a rhetorical question, but I’d love to know WHY? Do we think that as individuals, we have no power, no influence? Do we simply not have the time? Is the effort not worth the results?

      Back to the question of business – I don’t think many of us see ourselves as “customers” because we don’t really have a choice in the matter of getting charged for the services we receive. On the other hand, we enjoy a great deal of benefits because of our tax dollars. In the end, if we had direct control over how the money was spent, I would guess many of us would make different choices than our current federal budget.

      1. “we enjoy a great deal of benefits because of our tax dollars.” – Yes we do like Police, Roads, Military, and such…there are a TON! of government programs that are not working and are a complete waste of our tax dollars, if they were run like a business they would have to stop or they would fail.

        “In the end, if we had direct control over how the money was spent, I would guess many of us would make different choices than our current federal budget.”

        Problem is you said “IF WE” – people need to read the constitution and realize that we do have the power – you nailed it on the head with “We are self-destroying our own future with our ignorance, but none of us seems to care the least bit about it!”

        Conversation like this post hopefully will help, as long as people aren’t waiting for the government to fix it- HA!

  5. Government should not be running a business. None of them ever had to meet a payroll or make a profit. It will be a disaster if we let government take over business like they are now doing. Free market capitalism is what made tis country the envy of the world. The best thing government can do is get out of the way.

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