Sunday, April 24, 2011
Most of us understand the impossibility of comparing apples to oranges. How interesting then, that many folks directly compare work accomplished, and the price tag for projects carried out by a private business and by a governmental agency. One must assume that discussions about whether private or public organizations can best do work, is more emotionally charged than discussions about which fruit is “best”. Why, other than the cognitive disorientation that often accompanies a charged emotional state, would one try to directly compare the efficiency and cost of a governmental project, to that of a private enterprise?
I am neither an economist, nor particularly knowledgeable about governance, but I know enough to know that businesses and democratic governments have different primary goals, operate in different arenas, and function under different constraints.
Businesses focus on making a profit. They are free, to a great extent, to carry out their plans without concern for the public, the environment, or the future; and often do so.
Democratic governments, on the other hand, are committed to the common good, and are responsible to protect the common good in every possible realm.
Seems clear that making a profit, while abiding by some laws, would be child’s play compared to the mind-numbing complexity of trying to productively serve and protect the public good.
Most adults have seen the harm that can be done in the name of profit, even when governments are trying to protect the people, the environment and the future. Some of the greatest profits have been made outside the realm of the common good, in the realm of sweatshops.
Governments are not the most efficient producers, the least expensive, nor are they known for turning a profit. Fortunately, that is not what they were designed for.
Let us recognize an orange as an orange, an apple as an apple, and let us clearly ask ourselves what we want from our government; a profit, or the common good.