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Author Topic: The goverment is not a business!
Joe Bentley
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I know this is a small thing, but I can't stand it when in a discussion about government spending someone says something to the effect of "If someone ran a business like they run the *insert name of local, state or federal government or government project, agency or whatever* it would of been bankrupt years ago!"

The government is not a business. The government doesn't exist to make a profit. The government exist to provides services to the people. A lot of things are more important then money, and most of the things the government does, i.e. provide basic service infrastructure, national defense, public health and safety, etc, are certainly most of those things.

Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying the government should ever be reckless in its spending or purposely wasteful. Government waste can often times be a problem and needs to be addressed, but a direct comparison to how you run a business is really, really missing the point.

I'm just saying that the bottom line is that the bottom line should never be the government's bottom line. (Ha triple pun, beat that! [Razz] )

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"Existence has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long." - Rorschach, The Watchmen

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I dislike inadequate analogies and comparisons too, Joe. While government can at times be fairly ineffecient, often the price of efficiency would be too high (such as giving up due process or checks and balances). As you said, some things are more important than money.

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Officially Heartless

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FullMetal
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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honestly though if more governments were run like businesses, they'd do better. having worked for a municipal gov't which was run like a corporation, I can attest to that. the council was more like a board of directors, and we had a balanced budget, provided excelent services, and were a model of efficiency, until the new council came in and made changes...

And a business doesn't need to be run to make a profit, the business model can be adjusted to "break even" trust me it makes a lot more sense when the government makes a case on how they're going to pay back the loan before running a defecit one year. rather than running a defecit and having no clear way to recover the money...

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Bill
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I agree *in a sense* that government should be run like a business.

I agree with you that the reason for being may be totally different. A government agency whose mission it is to provide services to poor people is obviously not like a business in that it itself generates little if any revenue and thus by its nature it will spend more than it takes in.

But I still say that government has a responsibility to provide services efficiently, at the lowest reasonable cost, and perform its services well. Government shouldn't get away with providing poor service because it's a monopoly, and shouldn't run up excess costs (excessive salaries or unnecessary employees) because it doesn't have to show a profit. I have encountered government people who can't answer a telephone without hanging up on me or can't answer a simple question.

Just my quick reply.

Thanks.

Bill

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RLobinske
Deck the Malls


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I think what is needed is to separate the concepts of running government efficiently from the idea of running government like a business. Business has no monopoly on efficienty, just as government has no monopoly on bloated staffing.

They often have different goals and require different approaches to reach said goals. They can learn from each other, and when the individuals involved are willing, can accomplish much together.

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pob14
Jingle Bell Hock


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I want to work for one of these governments I keep hearing about that pay excessive salaries.

I've always been on pins and needles at budget time to see if we would get a 3% raise or not. Many times, the answer has been "not."

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Patrick

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TurquoiseGirl
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by FullMetal:
honestly though if more governments were run like businesses, they'd do better.

Which businesses? Enron? Delta? United? Ford?

Like pob14, I wonder what the reaction would be to higher pay for performance and bonuses would be. You know, like atheltic coaches get (who are the highest paid state employees in NM).

I have contact with people at two of the national labs, one of which is run by a business. The employees, while well-paid are not particularly happy, nor are they able to get as much done as we are because the directions are constantly changing. Then again, it would be nice to not be dependent on soft money for my employment.

I suspect that what most people mean when they say that the government should be run like a business is that they get Nordstrom level services at Walmart prices...

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There are people who drive really nice cars who feel that [those] cars won't be as special if other people drive them too. Where I come from, we call those people "selfish self-satisfied gits." -Chloe

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Silas Sparkhammer
I Saw V-Chips Come Sailing In


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Wholehearted agreement with initial rant!

Some years ago, I was in a restaurant with some friends. The waiter took a pot of coffee, which had sat in place long enough, and poured it down the sink. I said, idly, "That is why the Post Office should not be privatized."

And, sure enough, private delivery services, like FedEx or UPS, do not deliver to places that are remote or sparsely populated. Unprofitable.

I am extremely thankful that GWB's big push to privatize Social Security was killed. And I think that we are all seeing the obscene costs of the private health-care system in this country.

Yes, some things should be done for profit. Entertainment, especially, works best on that model. Luxury spending and private enterprise go together very well indeed.

Necessities and private enterprise? Well, have you paid up your air bill for the month?

Silas

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Grand Illusion
Jingle Bell Hock


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Really, there are three forms of "businesses": for-profit, public (government) and nonprofit, and each have their own different goals and methods. It's wrong to say that the best way for a government to work is to emulate a for-profit or nonprofit business. There are, however, universal principles that need to be heeded, such as the laws of supply and demand, the need for a good public image, and accountability to management and customers. When I've heard people say that the government should be run more like a business, they have usually meant that the government can;t function effectively unless it heeds these principles.

If an ice cream parlor runs out of money, it goes out of business and tells its staff to find new jobs and tells its customers to go to a competitor. If the government runs out of money, it can't just fold and tell all of its citizens to move to another country. This leads some politicians, especially at the state and federal level, to believe that they can be as wasteful with revenue as they want because no matter what, they'll get bailed out.

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There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who do not.

"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" - The Brain

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FullMetal
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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obviously not corrupt business...

This is a problem with the whole arguement. people look at the negative ones. The negative gov't agencies the negative businesses. comparing a wasteful gov't agency with a wasteful corporation is a silly arguement, and will not provide any room for improvement. My statement, which I stand by, is more that people are ACCOUNTABLE for their actions, and the money they spend. to often government agencies are not held accountable for the money the spend (as are those corporations you've mentioned). an example, HRDC Human Resources Development Canada. They lost a billion dollars. Where did it go? Nobody knew. $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money to go missing. there was no accountability, so nobody got punished, the minister in charge of HRDC got another cabinet post, and someone else took over, and eventually HRDC was renamed and changed, and glossed over and forgotten about. No accountablity.

"Business" doesn't always have to be about profit, you take profit out of the equation for any organization, and mindsets change. but if you keep the organization, responsibilities, accountability, you get an effecient organization. Corruption will occur anywhere, and corruption is another problem all together. the bottom line is always the bottom line. you can't have a country running trilions of dollars in debt, and expect it to thrive. look how much of your tax dollars goes to servicing the debt. imagine that debt wasn't there. how much taxes would you be paying? or how much better service would you be getting for that tax dollar?

Countering that, with accountability in business... you take that accountability away, you get corruption and you get companies like enron. that's not a fault of the business model.

That is what I mean when I say government should be run like a business. accountability. sure they are accountable to their electorate... but I have news for you, most of the people who need to be accountable? aren't elected. they're hired. they're civil servants just like I was.

My concern is not with what I get for my dollar, but where my dollar goes. I'd rather be spending my money for services rendered, and for current spending, rather than paying more to make up for the shortfalls the government made 10 years ago. the defecit spending model is flawed, and will only bite us in the ass later. what happens when other countries refuse to loan money to the US? what happens when the US is taxing it's citizens so much that they can't afford to buy food? you keep spending money you don't have eventually you run out of money you do have.

Accountability...

and if you throw Enron in my face again, that's not a successful company... using a failed business plan to explain why businesses are bad is not convincing. explain your point using a successful business as the example.

As for performance bonuses. I'd love to see them, as long as the department showed fiscal accountability, and was able to give these bonuses without going into debt further...

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TurquoiseGirl
The "Was on Sale" Song


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quote:
Originally posted by FullMetal:
Accountability...

and if you throw Enron in my face again, that's not a successful company... using a failed business plan to explain why businesses are bad is not convincing. explain your point using a successful business as the example.

As for performance bonuses. I'd love to see them, as long as the department showed fiscal accountability, and was able to give these bonuses without going into debt further...

I didn't throw Enron in your face. Calm down. I just wanted to point out that not every business is actually something you want to emulate.

So Walmart is a successful business according to business models. I would not want to work for a government (or be served by one) which used a Walmart model. \

The point is that not all businesses are better run than all government offices.

As much as people complain about the post office, for example, I am much more likely to get package where I want it to go, on time and unbroken and for less money by shipping it USPS than UPS. That is based on the local conditions of both entities.

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There are people who drive really nice cars who feel that [those] cars won't be as special if other people drive them too. Where I come from, we call those people "selfish self-satisfied gits." -Chloe

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RLobinske
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by FullMetal:

That is what I mean when I say government should be run like a business. accountability. sure they are accountable to their electorate... but I have news for you, most of the people who need to be accountable? aren't elected. they're hired. they're civil servants just like I was.


Which brings us back to my earlier statement We need to separate the concept of government being run in an efficient (and to add your position, accountable) manner from the concept of running government as a business.

It is clearer and more accurate to state that government should be run with efficiency and accountablity than to say government should be run as a business.

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Mad Jay
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Silas Sparkhammer:


And, sure enough, private delivery services, like FedEx or UPS, do not deliver to places that are remote or sparsely populated. Unprofitable.

Silas

But, once there is a demand for a product, wouldn't a supplier come up eventually? It may not be profitable for FedEx/UPS to deliver to small towns, but small local letter-carriers will eventually rise to meet the pent-up demand

The key word here is of course, eventually. More often than not the forces of free market don't move fast enough to meet demand. I think this is the point where goverment should step in, either by stimulating conditions that result in free market forces working faster, or by providing the service in the interim

However, the trouble starts when the goverment starts stifling free economy instead of promoting it

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Nico Sasha
In between my father's fields;And the citadels of the rule; Lies a no-man's land which I must cross; To find my stolen jewel.

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Jay Temple
It Came Upon a Midnight Clearance


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Ironically, Mad Jay, the USPS is an excellent example of stifling free economy instead of promoting it. It's legal to use a private company for shipping packages, but not to send a letter. (There is an exception if you can show that the letter is urgent enough that even first-class service won't suffice, but for the most part, it's illegal.) USPS likes to point out that they receive no money from the government, but that's because they don't include the salaries of the people who enforce the monopoly.

Postal service is a pretty good example of something that government should do, but should not monopolize. In order for certain government operations to go smoothly, we must have a postal system that goes everywhere. (Jury duty comes to mind.) Nevertheless, there is no harm if private industry handles all or even most of the freight.

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"Well, it looks we're on our own ... again."--Rev. Lovejoy

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TurquoiseGirl
The "Was on Sale" Song


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What? I have had many a letter delivered FedEx!

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There are people who drive really nice cars who feel that [those] cars won't be as special if other people drive them too. Where I come from, we call those people "selfish self-satisfied gits." -Chloe

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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quote:
Originally posted by StingJay Temple:
Ironically, Mad Jay, the USPS is an excellent example of stifling free economy instead of promoting it. It's legal to use a private company for shipping packages, but not to send a letter. (There is an exception if you can show that the letter is urgent enough that even first-class service won't suffice, but for the most part, it's illegal.)

The restriction on who can carry a letter balances out the fact that the Post Office is required to deliver *everywhere*. The extra income that they get from delivering to urban locations and dense population centers balances out the extra cost when the mail carrier has to drive 10 miles to deliver a single bulk-rate mailed advertisement. If FedEx and UPS were allowed to compete on a direct basis, they'd only take the cheap routes, leaving the USPS the expensive routes.

ETA: The Post Office has to pickup *everywhere* on a daily basis too. To me, it is unfair to make the USPS compete with FexEx and UPS when the USPS is under what would be crippling restrictions in a free market.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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quote:
Originally posted by TurquoiseGirl:
What? I have had many a letter delivered FedEx!

One of the exceptions is if the letter is extremely urgent. One definition of what is extremely urgent is:

Postage Value
It will be conclusively presumed that a letter is extremely urgent and is covered by the suspension if the amount paid for private carriage of the letter is at least $3 or twice the applicable U.S. postage for First-Class Mail (including Priority Mail), whichever is greater.

ETFix and clarify

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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I'm confused. Surely once can just put the letter in a FedEx envelope.

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Officially Heartless

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keokuk
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by GenYus:
It will be conclusively presumed that a letter is extremely urgent and is covered by the suspension if the amount paid for private carriage of the letter is at least $3 or twice the applicable U.S. postage for First-Class Mail (including Priority Mail), whichever is greater.

So in other words, given the current price of FedEx even when I use it to send a single letter across town, absolutely anything would pretty much be defined as "extremely urgent."

I don't think I could send a letter FedEx Express Saver from my desk to someone a floor below me for less than $3.39

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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quote:
Originally posted by ThistleSmelt:
I'm confused. Surely once can just put the letter in a FedEx envelope.

You can. But the EPS (Private Express
Statutes) say that it is illegal to deliver mail for pay unless you meet certain exceptions. One of those exceptions is an "extremely urgent" letter. To be extremely urgent, a letter must either match a specific time limit (if a letter must be delivered in 6 hours within 50 miles, then it is extremely urgent) or it must be so urgent that you are willing to pay extra for it (at least $3 or twice the USPS First Class rate for the letter).

Also, the EPS is what gives the USPS the right to charge an organization for postage if that organization is distributing handbills into mailboxes.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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ThistleSoftware
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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So you can deliver a letter via Fedex but they have to charge more than $3?

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Officially Heartless

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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quote:
Originally posted by keokuk:
So in other words, given the current price of FedEx even when I use it to send a single letter across town, absolutely anything would pretty much be defined as "extremely urgent."

I don't think I could send a letter FedEx Express Saver from my desk to someone a floor below me for less than $3.39

That price is probably because of the EPS. Since FedEx doesn't want to deal with having to define what is urgent based on delivery times and locations, they set their base prices so that anything sent through them is expensive enough to qualify as extremely urgent under the EPS.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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snapdragonfly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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Interestingly, (and something she brings up a lot :-)) my mom did her whatever that paper is that you have to do to get your degree, in economics, on the different day care models.

She studied government run day cares, for profit day cares, in home day cares, church day cares, every kind.

By far the safest, cleanest, highest quality, and best run were the government run day cares. They also were the most efficient and least wasteful. She had many hours of documentation on all this, which I wouldn't go into even if I remembered them all, but from what she told me, I agree with her conclusion.

I agree with Silas. There's some things that it just isn't in the best interest of the "customers" to be run by private enterprise.

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"Wolves, dragons and vampires, man. Draw the nut-bars like big ol' nut-bar magnets." ~evilrabbit

(snurched because one of my nutbar family members is all about wolves and another one is all about dragons...)(with apologies to surfcitydogdad)

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GenYus
Away in a Manager's Special


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quote:
Originally posted by ThistleSmelt:
So you can deliver a letter via Fedex but they have to charge more than $3?

Sort of. If USPS First Class postage for a letter would be $1.50 or less, then you can send that letter via FedEx or UPS for $3 or more. If USPS FC postage for a letter would be more than $1.50, then the FexEx or UPS rate for that letter has to be equal to or more than two times the USPS FC postage.

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IIRC, it wasn't the shoe bomber's loud prayers that sparked the takedown by the other passengers; it was that he was trying to light his shoe on fire. Very, very different. Canuckistan

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Jay Fear
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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I agree wholeheartedly with the OP, the simple fact is that the provison of services with fair expenditure and efficiency should be the goal of a government. If any gain is made it should be reinvested, running on balance is the sign of a government that is using funds wisely instead of using them as a warchest for stupid projects or tax-cuts to draw in easily misguided voters.

Business, at least at the big end of town, is primarily focused on minimising expenditure and maximising profit in order to keep the shareholders' and executives' pockets well lined. Governments run only to provide funding to those at the top of the ladder usually are placed in 3rd World or developing nations, run by military or religious dictatorships.

Even successful businesses do this, Telstra in Australia and Microsoft in the US have obscene monopolies and do anything to gouge extra funds but are perfectly stable, to claim that heartless or badly managed companies will all die as the extension of morality or karma is nonsense. Every day people rail against both governments and corporations that do abominable things, simply because the almighty dollar looms as the reward on the horizon.

Anyone who has spent 2 hours on hold trying to get account details changed will tell you that even large, well established companies can be the peak of inefficiency, business holds no claim to efficiency. Its a matter of good management, simple as that. When health, education, and infastructure are all leased out to the lowest bidder, the results are the same as business. Higher volume, lower quality. The difference is that in terms of vital services, quality is paramount.

Who cares how many patients you roll through, how many you gouge with insurance charges, if they end up dying from poor treatment? What's the point of a system that doesn't educate students, drains them of funds, and leaves them useless afterwards? And why contract major road projects when the companies managing them will buckle and cripple your city with congestion?

Money will lose its value if governments maintain the line that profit/surplus is paramount, because the society that gives it that value will collapse under the weight of the poor services that result. Current governmental failings would be fixed with more accountability to the public, and better management of the different levels and branches of government, not with emulation of major business models.

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Most who say they seek the truth simply don't agree with the truth presented to them currently.

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Roadie
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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IME, many of the times that government is "inefficient", it is the result of regulations put into place at the demand of the electorate who wanted safeguards. Really, my employees would rather not have to fill out 18 separate pieces of paper with the same information and original signatures, but somewhere along the line a rule or law was put into place because a private citizen complained loudly enough to a sympathetic elected official who carried the torch in indignation and created more red tape.

"I'm from the government - I'm here to help."

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"The little local company I buy from has CHEAP shipping and I have met their goats." (snapdragonfly)

"And that's one lost erection I'll never get back! You hear me Dan! I'm owed an erection!" (I'mNotDedalus)

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James D
Deck the Malls


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If government were run like a buisness, it would be very hard to run a buisness successfully around here.

Government takes care of the things that make sense in a long-term, whole society sort of a way. Things like education, police and fire services don't make a direct profit. However, they do benefit society in general both in short and long term. Can you imagine the traffic jams if you had to lease every road you drove on. If you had to contract private services for fire protection, or that you had to wait until your neighbor's uncovered fire spread to your place to call in service? And almost every company around benefits from a literate populace - even the ones who just read the keys on the register.

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The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
Arthur C. Clarke (1917 - )

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Spooky Cactus
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Let's run the Government like a business. We'll fire all the civil servants, and outsource the whole thing to East Asia, where we can pay a guy 3c a week to be President, and he'll work 20 hours a day with absolutely no golfing breaks or party fundraisers!

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'When the world is dead and gone, we will still be Rocking On!' (J.P.McCartney)

Posts: 154 | From: Yorkshire, England | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
BringTheNoise
Xboxing Day


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Hey, at least he'll probably have a better understanding of international relations...

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"The United States Government: significantly less cruel and sadistic than the Taliban." - Dara

Posts: 1289 | From: Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Publius
Happy Holly Days


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Donald Rumsfeld: Best Defense Secretary Since Robert McNamara

quote:
McNamara pioneered the use of mathematical and financial analysis in military planning and served as the head of the Ford Motor Company before coming to the Pentagon under Kennedy. Rumsfeld has an MBA and has served as the CEO of a number of corporations. Because of their backgrounds they were able to make decisions unswayed by emotion or political considerations. Instead of seeing troops as individuals, they saw them as statistics on a spreadsheet, which made it a lot easier for them to make the tough decisions that were necessary. Numbers don't lie, unlike people, which is why they didn't listen to what people were telling them if the numbers didn't back them up.


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BringTheNoise
Xboxing Day


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NOT seeing the troops as people is a good thing now? [Confused]

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"The United States Government: significantly less cruel and sadistic than the Taliban." - Dara

Posts: 1289 | From: Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
erwins
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by James D:
If government were run like a buisness, it would be very hard to run a buisness successfully around here.

And the government wouldn't have a strong incentive to be a government anymore.

How much are you willing to pay for the limited supply of drivers' licenses up for auction this year?

And what's wrong with child labor again?

(Questions directed to those in favor, not to James D.)

erwins

Posts: 238 | From: Portland, Oregon | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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Why the government should not be run like a business:

* It's not a business.
* It has very different goals compared to a business. The goal is not to make as much profit as possible, it's to help as many people as possible.

Why a government should be run like a business:

* Business has to keep alert and effective and use the latest organisatorial concepts to do it.
* If "profit" is replaced by "usefulness" or some more apropriate measurement, it's not that different.

So, it all depends on how strict you are when making the statement. There is no doubt that the government can learn and be inspired by the private sector (and vice versa), but it's not the entire solution as it also has some very specific problems.

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/Troberg

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jw
The First USA Noel


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I cannot totally agree with the OP, as I believe an awful lot of Govt. services (I'm relating specifically to our own) could be outsourced to efficient private enterprises and the public could easily be better served.

However, experience tells us otherwise, as most services that are outsourced are usually run on a shoestring and the public are usually worse off. Why is this?

Often, when the service that's outsourced is poorly ran, it's completely ignored by Govt., officials, who hide behind the private company's edifice, and let them take the flak from a dissatisfied public.
Govt., officials then refuse to take the blame for employing them in the first place!

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On my old guitar sell tickets, so someone can finally pick it.

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AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by j whale:
I cannot totally agree with the OP, as I believe an awful lot of Govt. services (I'm relating specifically to our own) could be outsourced to efficient private enterprises and the public could easily be better served.


I'd be curious which government service(s) you feel could be run more efficiently by private enterprises, which would then offer better service.

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"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

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