• Nelson Guedes

The Business of Government

We tend to think of governments and businesses as separate and distinct as if they belong to completely different categories like strawberries and neutron stars. The truth, however, is that governments and businesses are merely two different forms of organization differentiated only by the rules they follow. Their rules can change over time and become more similar or dissimilar. As organizations, they also interact freely with one another, following patterns of interaction that are common to all organizations.

Governments are businesses that sell laws. Politicians are the workers of the business. They get hired through an electoral system that enables citizens, the customers, to hire them collectively through an electoral process. A politician’s job is to figure out which laws the customers would like to enact and then offer their services to their customers. If the politician figures out what the customers want, the politician gets hired. If they don’t figure it out, they don’t get hired. Politicians thus sell laws to us. If we hire the politicians to enact a law, the politician gets paid, as part of our tax dollars. The politicians can also sell services such as infrastructure construction and healthcare (public or a mix of public and private). They often do this by contracting with specific private businesses, but they can also build a public business, such as a public healthcare business. Another example of a public business is public banks that issue currency, either for profit in the form of bonds or non-profit in the form of interest-free loans. Citizens may fund the government through various means such as a tax rate based on a flat percentage of income, or a percentage that is proportional to a level of income. Such business decisions are generally sold to their customers in the form of policies and laws.

Not all customers are equal. Some customers have more influence than others. These customers may use their social connections or wealth to influence government policy. This can, for instance, be done through lobbyists who work for certain wealthy customers and pre-write the laws for politicians to then enact. In this manner, the legislative work is outsourced to lobbyists who work for wealthy customers. This shifts the policies to whatever the wealthy customers want, regardless of what the other customers want. Theoretically, customers could simply replace politicians by hiring other politicians that offered different laws, policies and services. But whichever politician they hired; they could ultimately work with lobbyists on behalf of the wealthy customers. There is no rule that dictates that politicians must follow through with their promises. There is a free market of politicians, so there is an assumption that politicians must follow through or else be replaced. When they don’t follow through, if customers don’t hire them again, the politician simply gets hired through the private economic system owned by the wealthy customers, and they are often paid even better within the private system. This is often referred to as the “revolving door”. Politicians that obey their wealthy customers get rewarded with higher paychecks within the government and even higher paychecks within the private system. Therefore, all politicians have a great motivation to obey the wealthy customers. In the end, there are virtually no politicians in the market that don’t obey the wealthy customers. When there is one, there are relentless media campaigns against them. It is propaganda disguised as news. The propaganda is often sufficient to convince people that the politician targeted is not trustworthy. When it isn’t, the wealthy customers can still stop the candidate through their control over the electoral system. Not all electoral systems function in the same way, but it is usually centred around political parties. In the US and Canada, for example, political parties have a large degree of control over who gets to run under them, and since there are only two political parties with sufficient influence, all that the wealthy customers have to do to have control over the government is to have sufficient control over who gets elected by controlling both political parties from the inside, preselecting the options available for all customers to choose from.

The entire system of government has to be funded. Buildings need to be kept and paid for, politicians need to be hired and paid, and political campaigns need to be funded. The people who fund the politicians are ultimately the people who control it. The wealthy have an interest in controlling the government since it is far cheaper to pay politicians to work for them than to allow politicians who work for the people to gain power and potentially dismantle the system that serves the wealthy. The wealthy invest their money in political campaigns for hand-picked politicians and then enact tax policies that reduce the amount of money they have to pay in taxes while increasing the amount of money that everyone else has to pay. In this manner, taxpayers maintain the entire government system while exerting little influence and gaining few to no benefits from it. As long as we have a centralized government system that relies on large amounts of campaign funding and an economic, monetary and financial system that is controlled by the wealthy, we won’t be able to have a government that works for all of us.

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© 2015 by Nelson Guedes

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