Those right-wingers keep going on about how better off we’d be if we ran government like a business. Even some lefties buy into this idea. For some strange reason, we still believe the business world is more efficient, productive, competent, and straight-forward that the U.S. government even though they’re anything but. As John T. Harvey so aptly explains in his Forbes article, “Why Government Should Not Be Run Like A Business”:
“The problem in a nutshell, is that not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.”
That’s right. If we ran government like a business, Alas for citizens and consumers (who are often one and the same), business and government have grown more and more alike in recent years, and not in a good way. Thanks to relentless cost-cutting measures so companies can pay their top brass more as we tax them less, citizens and consumers face reduced services, lower quality goods, long lines, labyrinthine phone trees, personnel shortages, out of stock items, and a generally lower quality of life.
If we ran government like a business: Five scenarios.
Below are five examples of what life would be like if we ran government like a business (at the local, state, and federal levels.
(1) Calling 911.
If we ran government like a business, calling 911 would be pointless because your kid would die or that burglar would strip your home bare long before any help arrived.
You: Hello, I need to report a … um … HELLO?
Automated Phone System: Good evening. You have reached Emergency Services at Nine-One-One. For English, press one. Para Espanol, oprima numero dos. If this is an emergency, please hang up, and dial Nine-One-One. Or visit our website at 911.gov.
If you’re calling about a crime in progress, press one. If you’re calling about your idiot neighbor cooking meth again, press two. If your house is on fire, the Fire Department is currently closed due to adjusted resource allocations. But you can press three for the Volunteer Fire Department. If nobody answers, please call Flo’s Lounge at 867-5309, and ask for Bob. If you need an ambulance, press four, or repeat the previous procedure, and ask for Bob.
(2) Renewing Your Driver’s License.
If we ran government like a business, DMV workers would earn fat bonuses to upsell you.
Clerk: Good morning, how may I provide you with excellent service today?
Customer: Hi, I’m here to renew my driver’s license.
Clerk: Great, how many licenses will you be renewing today?
Customer: Um … just one?
Clerk: We have a Friends Special today, if you can get two friends to renew their licenses, we’ll give each of you a 30% discount on your renewal fees.
Customer: I don’t have any friends.
Clerk: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. But we’re also offering a three-for-two ACTION PACK deal so you can pay for two types of licenses and get one free. Most folks who come in here go for the Motorcycle and Truck Driver’s licenses, along with the one they normally get for driving their car.
Customer: Wow, that sounds like fun. But I don’t know how to drive a motorcycle or a truck.
Clerk: That’s okay, you can add a couple of training sessions for what you normally spend on a cup of coffee every day for the rest of your life. Plus, you can’t possibly drive any worse than my 90-year-old aunt who accidentally ran down a pedestrian because her foot couldn’t reach the brake pedal. And we gave her a truck driver’s license, though we withheld the motorcycle one.
Customer: Oh! How awful, I’m sorry to hear that!
Clerk: It wasn’t so bad. He was an organ donor, and Aunt Bettie needed a new liver, so I see it as a win-win.
3) Registering Your Child For Kindergarten.
If we ran government like a business, basic services would be free, but for the full enchilada, you’ll need to become a premium member.
Parent: Hi, I’m here to register my son for kindergarten this fall, and drop off the paperwork. We’re so excited!
School Administrator: Great! Hmm … okay … birth certificate, vaccination records, emergency contacts … Looks like we’re all set. And will you be upgrading to Preferred Parent™?
Parent: Um, what is “Preferred Parent™?”
School Administrator: The Preferred Parent™ upgrade entitles you to exclusive benefits, like first choice for teacher conference time slots, online access to personalized progress reports for your child, and having your phone calls returned by the teacher and school administrators.
Parent: Sounds great, how do I sign up?
School Administrator: Just pledge $500 per year to our PTA and sign this waiver form.
(4) Getting A Business License.
If we ran government like a business, workers would “wear multiple hats” in “fast-paced, multi-tasking environments,” customer service positions would be offshored, and customers would need to accept substitutes when items are out of stock.
Applicant: Hello? Anybody here? Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o! [waits 15 minutes for clerk to appear]
Clerk: [breathlessly] Sorry to keep you waiting. My boss just laid everyone off, including herself, so I’m the only one here. And things were crazy in the Zoning Department.
Applicant: No prob. Anyways, I’m here to apply for a restaurant license.
Clerk: Sorry, we’re out of stock for restaurant licenses.
Applicant: Do you know when you’ll have them again?
Clerk: I’m not sure, our rep in Bangladesh says there was another factory fire. Would you like a beauty parlor license instead?
(5) Declaring war.
If we ran government like a business, we would conduct wars like leveraged buyouts funded by the victim nation’s own resources because even wars have to pay for themselves.
President: So, ya really think they got WMD’s?
Vice President: Yep.
President: And they’re part of the “axis of evil?”
Vice President: Yep.
President: Well, I’m the Decider, and I’m leanin’ towards war … but how do we pay for it?
Vice President: After we free ’em, we set up a “democratically-elected government,” and get ‘hold of their oil, We’ll make out like bandits.
President: Okay, so we take ’em over, and then use their oil to pay for taking ’em over, right?
Vice President: Yep.
President: But what if we don’t win and get stuck owing all that money?
Vice President: Then we’ll just say we’ve got a deficit and need to cut all our government programs.
President: Wow, that’s some kinda strategery ya got goin’ on there. Way to go, Big Time!
Oh wait…That’s not funny.
Featured image: cc 2007 Gryffindor via Wikimedia Commons with sign added.