Since the election, I can’t keep track of how many times I have heard that our government should be run like a business. Please, stop. The statement is annoying at best, and dangerous at worst. And it reveals an ignorance about the roles of government and business that is concerning.
Businesses exist to make a profit. If they don’t make a profit, they eventually cease to exist. Businesses generally serve just a small segment of the population, and they need only answer to owners, shareholders and their customers.
Our government exists to serve everyone, setting a framework of laws and infrastructure for the common good. It does not exist to make a profit. In fact, the only U.S. government agency that brings in more money than it spends is the Internal Revenue Service, which pays for all of the other government costs.
There is a cost to living in a civilized nation with laws, currency, a military and infrastructure — and it can be hefty. Maintaining an army and fighting a war are expensive. But I am glad that when we fought the Nazis, this nation was willing to take on the expense to do what was morally right.
Public transportation does not pay for itself with fares. But it provides immeasurable social value by allowing people to get to jobs that support their families, allowing students to get to school, and, in general, allowing people to go about the daily business of their lives.
And I don’t know how folks think education should turn a profit — by schooling only those who can pay for it? If that were the case, most people in this country would not be able to read.
I don’t want my government to be run like a business and turn a profit. I do want my government to provide economic stability to allow my business to make a profit. I want my government to build and maintain roads that allow products from my business to be transported to markets.
I want my government to educate children so they can become productive members of society, support their own families and improve the quality of our lives with future scientific and technological advances.
I want my government to make and enforce the laws that protect me from unethical business scams. I want my government to regulate polluters so that I can breathe freely and drink clean water.
I want my government to provide certain social services to those who need them because I have seen the horror of societies where government does not.
And I want my government to defend my constitutional rights whenever and wherever they are threatened, because those rights are my most-valued possession. I want my government to do all of these things — and none of them is a money-making operation.
Government has a responsibility to be efficient with the money provided by taxpayers, and there will always be room for improvement in this regard. But so much of what government provides has social value that cannot be assigned a monetary value.
The value of living in a society where individual rights are respected and defended, and where a framework of laws and infrastructure allows citizens to live productive lives, is immeasurable. That’s way better than USA Inc.