We’ve heard the refrain before: if the U.S. were run more like a business, we could solve our fiscal problems and we’d all be better off. This November, voters (those who are still allowed to vote) will get to decide. Here’s something to take into the voting booth with you.
A business has shareholders, directors appointed by them and employees hired at will. A nation, at least a republican one, has citizens, with leaders democratically elected by them.
A business is established to make a profit for its shareholders, with employment created only on a cost-benefit basis. A nation is established by its citizens to make life better for its citizens – who cannot be downsized, outsourced or fired.
A business is supposed to abide by the law – yet must follow the dictates of is directors. And therein lies a tension: a business has some incentive to skirt its legal obligations where possible, or to use its power to change the law. A nation’s leaders must follow the dictates of its citizens in the execution of the law for the benefit of the citizens.
A business looks each quarter to a profit from earnings. A nation, with its common language, culture, history, government and borders, looks to the common weal over the long term.
If you hire a politician to run a business, you’re relying on a skill set that is not there, so you can expect the business to sink in red ink. If you hire a businessman to run a nation, you’re relying on a skill set that is not there, so you can expect the nation to dissolve into independent individuals with nothing left but to trust in God – because the unum has no pluribus.
Put another way, many of us would go to war to protect our nation; how many of us would take up arms to defend Citibank? What’s the difference between a nation and a business? One gives you severance pay; the other stands for freedom and liberty for all. Now… vote carefully.
Copyright © 2012 Ronald Bruce Meyer. To hear an audio version of this Quick Comment, click on this link: A Nation Not A Business.
Howells cast off his Swedenborgian creed in his youth and became a social liberal and a sentimental Theist. We can see this in his poem "Lost Beliefs."