Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Why Businessmen Can't Govern

Last night, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney claimed victory in the battleground states of Arizona and Michigan. Romney claimed a meager 3-point victory in his "home" state of Michigan over God's prelate on earth Rick Santorum. During his victory speech, Romney referenced his warnings to the electorate about President Obama receiving ”on the job training”.

Romney cites his experience with turning around failing companies as ne plus ultra and why he is the most qualified to remedy what ails the country.
"I have a plan to get our citizens back to work – and I have the experience to get our economy back on track.  I spent 25 years in business.  I have been the steward of an Olympics and the leader of a state.  I’ve cut taxes 19 times.  I’ve turned a budget shortfall into a windfall.  I know how government kills jobs – and, yes, how it can help.  And I stand ready to lead our party to victory – and our nation to prosperity." 
I'm not a huge fan of Mitt. He reminds me of a real life Ken doll with all of the charisma of the plastic figurine to boot. He will not get my vote in November (neither will Obama if Ron Paul runs a 3rd party campaign). However, I hate to see supposedly qualified candidates mislead the electorate intentionally or due to fatal ignorance. Mitt should emphasize his tenure as Massachusetts governor more and his business credentials less for the following reasons.

In his book Bureaucracy, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises attempts to explore the nature of bureaucracies and their place in private enterprise and government. In his chapter on The Crux of Bureaucratic Management, Mises attempts to explain why it is a flawed premise to assume that businessmen can use private enterprise principles to make governments more efficient.
”It is vain to advocate a bureaucratic reform through the appointment of  businessmen as heads of various departments. The quality of being an entrepreneur is not inherent in the personality of the entrepreneur; it is inherent in the position which he occupies in the framework of market society. A former entrepreneur who is given charge of a government bureau is in this capacity no longer a businessman but a bureaucrat. His objective can no longer be profit, but compliance with the rules and regulations. As head of a bureau he may have power to alter some minor rules and some matters of internal procedure. But the setting of the bureau's activities is determined by rules and regulations which are beyond his reach.”
Mises goes on to drive this premise home in unequivocal terms when he ends the the chapter by stating:
”There are many things about government administration which need to be reformed. Of course, all human institutions must again and again be adjusted anew to the change of conditions. But no reform could transform a public office into a sort of private enterprise. A government is not a profit-seeking enterprise. The conduct of its affairs cannot be checked by profit-and-loss statements. Its achievement cannot be valued in terms of money. This is fundamental for any treatment of the problems of bureaucracy.”
Mises wrote these words in 1944, after witnessing the expansion of the federal government to pay for two World Wars and to squash a Great Depression. A staunch advocate of sound money and free market principles, Mises saw first hand why you don't want to hold a government to the same standards that you hold a private business.

Many proponents of small government (myself included) fill the airwaves, newspapers, and blogs with protestations for a more streamlined, efficient government. This is a noble goal that undoubtedly springs from our desire to once again have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. However strong our desires are, the premise that we innately operate from is flawed.

When you turn the operation of government functions over to entities for which the profit motive is their primary concern, you will end up further disenfranchising the most vulnerable citizens in our Republic while simultaneously turning the keys to the exchequer over to corporate interests (sound familiar). While it is customary to cut expenses in private enterprises to prop up the bottom line, cutting costs by the government effects millions of citizens as opposed to a few hundred or thousand works.

Furthermore, the melding of corporate interest with governmental institutions, which is exactly what Mitt Romney and many other conservative pundits are advocating, is the very definition of Fascism. I don't know of any Republican, let alone any informed citizens, that would acquiesce to the installation of a Fascist government to remedy the budget deficits and inefficiencies that have plagued Washington for over a century. Take a really critical look at China and let me know  if you want corporate creamer in your government's coffee.

Simply put, any politician or citizens that asserts that the private business model is the cure all for partisan politics and bureaucracy in Washington is playing partisan politics. In an ideal world, private citizens would take the responsibility of infrastructure development and social charity upon themselves, leaving government to arbitrate contracts and provide for the common defense. However, we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world where wars, natural disasters, economic depressions, fiscal irresponsibility by Wall Street and corporate America, and social policies have created a permanent underclass in our country. Government has  entered into a contract with its citizenry to solve these problems and we owe it to those without proper representation to support our government in these laudable undertakings.

Government isn't broken. Our ability to reason, disagree without being disagreeable and, ultimately, compromise across political, religious, gender, and racial/ethnic lines to reach a solution that is in the best interest of the majority has corroded almost to the point of complete disintegration. Government expenditures aren't necessarily wasteful unless they are doled out in a manner that is less than equitable (political favors, based on political polls, etc.). Merging the principles of free enterprise with government is the worse possible solution at this point in our history. We run the risk of ending up more like Saudi Arabia than Greece.

What we need is for government to reclaim its rightful place as the epicenter of secular administration, where the interests of the citizenry is paramount and is purposely shielded from undue influence by corporate and religious organizations.

What we need is for more people like me, who hold deeply entrenched philosophies, to be able to change their opinions based on new evidence. That's called growth. Mindlessly following a flawed philosophy in the face of new evidence is the epitome of Dark Age thinking...and we all know how the Dark Ages turned out.

What we need in Washington are more teachers, policemen, firemen, physicians and, dare I say it, more community activist (will the old Barry Obama please stand up). Big Business has had nearly 100 years to try their methodology and it got us to this point.  Their time is up.

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