Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has seen a wave of support in the 2016 US general election; many of his supporters are hoping that he will run the United States like one of his many businesses. But, is this a good idea?
Popular with the Republicans, and more recently a few Democrats, the concept of using a business model for running government has become a common thread in each presidential election since at least the 90s with Ross Perot.
The attraction to a business model run government comes with the idea that businesses are run much more efficiently and at a lower cost than most governments. This is because businesses face the threat of bankruptcy and are in constant competition with other businesses – it is essentially survival of the fittest. Government agencies on the other hand, lose no market share nor face competitors despite their inefficiencies – inefficiencies that are costing taxpayers in the US an estimated billions and possibly even trillions of dollars yearly.
A relevant example of this is the US postal service. Calls to have the USPS privatised have been ongoing for years now, with many arguing that the rise of technology has led to the declining use of the postal service. Thus, to stay afloat the US is in urgent need of downsizing the service in total, and working on innovating ways to push sales, such as finding ways to deliver more parcels, and selling more than just stamps. Advocates of selling off the USPS point to Britain selling off many of its previously state-owned companies such as British Airways and British Petroleum in the 1970s. With less regulations, the companies are able to quickly change and adapt to the market’s needs.
So, with people wanting a low-cost, yet more efficient government, it would be a sensible suggestion to downsize the role of government and to ensure that it follows a strategic, and direct business plan.
However, private companies who follow the business model many are suggesting governments adopt ultimately strive for an efficiency that translates into ‘profit’. But a government’s role is not to generate profit, rather it is to fund socially valued agencies such as schools and libraries, of which profit has no place. Furthermore, privatisation comes at a cost. Putting socially valued programs like Medicare, or the British equivalent NHS, into the hands of a private company, leads to a constant and very likely risk of public benefit being compromised for profit. Most concerning is that businesses will seek profit at any measure. This could mean mass layoffs, unethical practices, and even bankruptcy – a very popular method for Trump himself. Countries however, cannot casually claim bankruptcy without causing chaos at both a national level as well as internationally.
In short, although it is clear that governments are often incredibly inefficient and wasteful in money terms, the solution is not to make them follow a business model in total. Instead, governments should take aspects of the business model and adopt it in their strategies. In this, resizing governments, and redesigning and innovating current agencies to make them more accommodating to present and future needs would be essential.