If the government were run like a business…

If the government were run like a business, what kind of business would it be? It’s easy enough to think of the President as CEO, and the Congress as the Board of Directors (kind of), but who would be the shareholders? The customers? How would this effect government employees? What would be the “product”?

Most importantly, where do citizens fit into this model?

The purpose – not just the goal, but the PURPOSE – of a business is to “increase shareholder value” (usually translated as “maximize profit”), which makes it all the more important to identify who the shareholders are in a government-as-business. It seems reasonable to say that citizens are the shareholders, but what is their investment? How do you measure return on that investment? Are all citizens/shareholders equal, or do some hold more “shares” than others?

For the most part, employees are seen as cost centers and customers merely as consumers; in both cases, the goal of the business is to extract as much value from these groups as possible at the lowest possible cost. Employees and customers benefit only as a side effect of, and only if it benefits, the business purpose (to increase shareholder value).

Government employees today are considered public servants, working as employees but in service of a higher calling (theoretically). Would this change if they were simply workers punching the clock to produce a product? Would the public perception of them change?

The obvious customer of government as business is the citizen. Or maybe the taxpayer (there is a difference)? What about all the others who live here, or visit; are they customers, too? What should customers be charged for the product of government?

What is the “product” of government?

What does it mean to “run government as a business”?

4 thoughts on “If the government were run like a business…

    1. @tericee I saw some random thing on G+ about business, government, politics, and thought of this, which I wrote back before the election. That’s how it ended up on a Saturday night. A businessperson has, no doubt, the skills to effectively run an organization like a government, but is running it like a business the best approach to it?


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