Are business executives better at running government? Ask the question a different way: is our capitalistic system a good model and training ground for persons who manage government? There are two aspects to this question. First, what is the consequential difference? Capitalism is making money. Government is administrating money. Second, are the same techniques of management transferable?
First: capitalism has a sales force that persuades people to buy a particular product. The customer has the option of buying or not buying. If a business wants more money they can improve their product, make new products, produce more, lower prices to sell more and/or increase their sales force, etc… That is, they are proactive; go get the money. Be aggressive. Take risks.
Government passes laws that force people to give money (taxes). The laws are made by an elected committee based on the needs as determined by that committee. Sure people have a say but through a system of procedures determined by laws. Bonds are a formal way of begging. Can’t be aggressive or the voters will become recalcitrant.
Government is passive in money received they have to wait for it. They know how much they are getting and have to run a budget to that amount. Business too has a budget but can improve their lot by going and getting more money not having to wait for it, cut-back, acquire, sell part of, or have a detached group decide.
Businesses can fail and the principles just move on or try something else. Governments can’t fail: people die, waste not recovered, and ramped corruption. Businesses can merge and do layoffs. Business can cut products that are not profitable without harm to customers. Businesses can on purpose lose money to get more. Business can cut cost of manufacturing with no real harm. Do that in government and lives could be lost. Prime example is McNamara and the M-16. Life sustaining systems in government can’t be cut. Expensive operations in government that help only a few have to be kept, like fire departments. Government takes everyone into account. Business can pick and choose who is important or not. Business can say; “we don’t care about them”, government can’t. And when Government does say that, the people hit the streets. The conclusion? There is a consequential difference. Different rules apply. They are totally different categories, there is no transference.
Second: business people hire friends and friends of friends to get favorable positions for their company. In government you are sent packing for the same act. An expense account can push the envelope for personal rewards and it’s called “the perks”. Business people believe perks are a right. In government it’s jail time.
Company hanky-panky is taken care of internally. Having an affair is a “don’t ask don’t tell. Funds left over in a business can go anywhere the boss wants; his pocket, parties, trips, bonus, etc… If done by government, jail time or at the least kicked out of office. It is perfectly legal in business to get and give kickbacks. It is perfectly legal to give gifts to get more business. In business it is legal to ask for money to get business. Favors are a custom; it’s expected in doing business. Paying for escorts, being entertained at strip clubs is just doing business. Benefit personally from being an employee in a company is a smart opportunity. Do any of the aforementioned in government and you are on the front page: SCANDAL!
Here is one that does not end up in jail or scandal but puts any politician behind the eight ball. Mitt Romney is a political flip flopper but is doing what made him successful. Give the customer what they want. If you sell red yo-yos and someone says green yo-yos are better you say “I will get you the best yo-yos, which of course are green.” Smart! You just made another sale.
The conclusion; business is a poor training ground for government. Second, a person can not use the same methods in business to manage as in government. Don’t confuse successful people vs. dunderheads to business vs. government. It takes longer to get rid of incompetence and is more visible in government then in business. It may seem, in a shallow observation, that business types are better. They are not. And it can be detrimental to society to believe so.