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February 17, 2013

Government Run as a Business: The Offsite

I'm a businessman; call me "TE". The search committee picked me to run the US government as a business. It's my first day on the job.

Of course we're going to start with an offsite to get the strategy right. Turns out we've got this place called Camp David with skeet shooting and plenty of conference rooms.

"Growth is what's most important to any business," say I. "I hear we're withdrawing from the Afghani market. What's that all about?"

"They're not a good market for government, sir. In fact, you might say they're ungovernable."

"OK," I say, "That initiative was undertaken by one of my predecessors. We don't have to throw good money after bad. But where can we expand? What about Canada? They're very governable. Work up a plan for me. Maybe Europe, too; see if we can underprice that outfit in Brussels. Squeeze 'em with some protective tariffs.

"Now what about selling more products to existing customers? The move into health care is good; lots of money and good margins there. Is it true they have to buy our product or they get fined?"

"Yes, sir," says a woman proudly. "Not exactly yet but soon."

"Good; keep on top of that. What about housing?" I ask. "What can we do in that market?"

"Well, sir, we have a housing finance arm; they're not doing very well. But we're bailing them out."

"Let 'em go. I assume they're firewalled and won't take us down in a bankruptcy. But what about actually building housing?"

"We do that for people who can't afford housing, sir."

"That's a lousy market," I point out; "we should be building houses for the rich. Go where the money is. Which reminds me, what about banking?"

"That's in the private sector, sir; we've been bailing them out, too."

"So we've got 'em where we want 'em, right? Call the loans. Acquire them in bankruptcy; good way to consolidate competitors."

"But the Fed won't like that, sir."

"Have that Bernanke guy in my office tomorrow morning. What about food? Can't we go into the food market? Let's do organic; people pay a lot for that."

"There are no clear standards for what gets labeled organic, sir."

"We should set the standards. If we make it, it's organic. Let's make a rule the competitors can't claim their stuff is organic. Or will we get sued?"

"We have sovereign immunity, sir."

"What's that?" I ask.

"We can only be sued if we agree to be sued."

I'm really going to like this job. Best business I've ever run. Lots of room for growth. Very little competition but we gotta look out for those Chinese.


So, my fellow fiscal conservatives, do we really want a government that's "run like a business"? Do we want a government always looking for opportunities for grow? In fact the problem may be that our government is too much like a business in its drive to expand its reach. I think we want a government which does only those jobs businesses can't, shouldn't, or won't do.

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