As I read more about the people who will be serving in Donald Trump’s cabinet, it has occurred to me that he is capitalizing on his reputation as a businessman to remake the government in such a way that it will soon become more like a business. Many of Trump’s fans probably applaud that, but I am not among them.
Businesses serve many functions and provide many services. Some of these are useful to some consumers but not so useful to others. In this manner, we vote with our dollars to choose among the services and products available. If sales of products and services are good, and the business model is efficient, the business will run a profit. There is the problem in one key word, profit.
According to John Harvey, writing in Forbes magazine on this question, “not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.” If we require every government agency to operate at a profit, we set most of them up for failure. To be true to the business model then, we would have to shut down every agency that does not turn a profit. We can’t pick and choose simply because some are still considered socially useful.
Should government strive for more efficiency? Absolutely.
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However, the profit motive raises the cost of everything that is bought and sold. It does not belong in the public realm.
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