Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business

It’s been popular in recent years for certain wealthy capitalists to claim they will “run government like a business” when they seek political office. While that may sound good to some, neither the state nor national Constitution ever suggests that governance and business are or should be the same — just the opposite, in fact. The Founding Fathers specifically designed our government structure to ensure life and liberty to benefit the well-being of the governed through the checks and balances of three separate but equal branches of government. It is at our peril — and that of our democracy — should we confuse business with governance.

One needn’t search far for current examples of misled wealthy individuals who don’t seem to understand the difference between government and business. At the top of the list, of course, is Donald Trump, the current occupant of the White House, who attained that position not through a vote of the people, but through the manipulation of the American electorate by none other than the very nation in which he wants to plant the Moscow Trump Tower.

Yet, what happened when those particular details were revealed to this businessman? He fired the government staffers who were responsible for simply doing their job to ensure foreign governments did not intrude in our elections. Why? Because that’s what CEOs do when someone in their “organization” isn’t “loyal” to the CEO.

It would be great to say that something has changed in that regard, but let’s not kid ourselves. Donald Trump continues to “run government like a business” and one of the worst parts about it is the enormous national debt this guy, who calls himself “the king of debt,” is racking up. Remember, he’s gone bankrupt six times already, including his casinos in which, as everyone knows, the house always wins.

Those who naively thought impeachment might teach Trump something now get to watch him play “The Apprentice” with our federal agencies, firing people who were doing their jobs, hiring incompetent personal friends or campaign contributors to fill positions for which they are completely unqualified, and putting loyalty to him above service to the populace. They do have a word for when government “leaders” operate like this, but it’s not called “business,” it’s called dictatorship.

Or take Michael Bloomberg and his incredible debate failure in Nevada last week. Bloomberg has amassed over $65 billion, which means if he spent a million dollars a day, every day, it would take him 200 years to spend his fortune if he didn’t earn another penny in interest or profit from his investments. Yet, when asked about some of the simplest functions of government, he was like a deer in the headlights — and like the billionaire he is, he was indignant about being challenged.

Unfortunately, we have our own version in Greg Gianforte — a mega-millionaire who body-slammed a helpless reporter, bought his seat in Congress, achieved little for the people and now wants to buy the Montana governor’s seat.

“Oligarchy” is the word for rich people running countries, which is defined as “a government in which a small group exercises control, especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” Democracy, on the other hand, is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them.”

At this critical juncture in our history, we would do well to note the difference and the mounting evidence that “running government like a business” enriches the oligarchs — but disregards “we, the people” and ignores the nation’s very real and pressing needs.


George Ochenski is a columnist for the Daily Montanan, where this essay originally appeared.