Run government like a business? Williamson says no

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online questions an old saying that links government and business.

One enduring thing of value that ought to come out of the Trump administration — ought, but apparently won’t — would be to finally drive a stake into the heart of these deathless twin superstitions: that the skills and talents that enable success in a particular kind of business are infinitely transferable to other profit-seeking and nonprofit enterprises alike, and that the formula for success in governing a democratic republic is to “run the country like a business.”

Our political lexicon does not have a precise term for this theory of benevolent plutarchy.

Call it CEO-cracy.

Ceocracy is mostly a stupid rhetorical tic. No one, including successful businessman-politicians such as former Florida governor Rick Scott (who has a real weakness for that kind of rhetoric) actually tries to run a government as though it were a business — because that’s nuts. Rick Scott didn’t run Florida’s government like he was a CEO — he ran it like he was Rick Perry.

Businesses measure their success in profit. Governments don’t. Businesses offer products and services in exchange for money in voluntary transactions. Governments don’t. Businesses that fail go bankrupt and are disbanded (except for politically sensitive banks, automobile companies, steel producers, farmers . . .) while failed governments keep right on misgoverning in the city and state of New York, in Illinois, in New Jersey, in California, in Connecticut, in the District of Columbia, in Austin, and abroad. Businesses have customers. Governments don’t.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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