Saturday, October 22, 2005

Democratic Business Model

A common Republican theme over the past few decades has been their superior business sense and their ability to run the government more like a business. George Bush was touted at the start of his first term as the CEO president. But if the Republicans are the business leaders, those who will run the country as a business, what is the business model they have for the US? What is the US in the business of doing and how is it being made profitable? I have not seen this explained by anyone from the right, nor can I fathom from their policies what their business model for the US is. On the other hand I think I could put together a decent business model for the US based on policies of liberalism and the Democrats.

The primary business activity of the US government is to provide security services. These are first and foremost, although not only, in the form of police, courts, and the military. This service is provided to the citizenry to produce an environment in which people can go about their business with relative peace, stability, and security in person and property. Like any good business, these services are not provided for free. The government charges for these services via taxation. I would argue that the deal that is currently offered by this government, and the deal that has been offered for the history of the US, is extremely good for all but perhaps the poorest of citizens. The security provided is vastly greater and less expensive than anyone could hope to provide on his or her own. In particular, for those who own a great deal of property, having it protected by the US is invaluable, and is done at a relatively tiny expense. I argue that the service is proportionately more valuable the more wealth and property you have, because the greater the wealth and property the harder it is to secure it on your own. For this reason I support progressive taxation, charging more for the service from those who 1) need it more, 2) can afford to pay more for it, and 3) use it more extensively to their own advantage.

The income stream for business of the US government is therefore the wealth generated through economic activity. So it is in the interest of our corporate managers to promote economic growth, the employment of the citizenry and business activity at all levels, as this increases the income stream and makes the business profitable. Therefore it is in the interest of government to provide, in addition to police and military security, measures to promote the kind of economic security that encourages people to invest and spend and generate economic activity. I would also argue that in order to provide the extremely effective security that the US provides, that business which is of such great value, it is desirable to have a generally prosperous, well educated and healthy populace. The security provided by the US is so valuable because it is able to tap into such a large selection of educated and healthy candidates for the various positions in our courts, police and military.

A second reason exists for why the government should be interested in investing in general education. The business draws its revenue from the many people who have created property and wealth of great value that needs to be defended. A well educated, stable and healthy populace is in a much better position to generate new, greater, and more diverse economic activity thus increasing the wealth of the nation, the amount of property in need of defense and the success of the government business. For this reasons operation an educational system, even at a loss, would be of great interest to a liberal business model.

Similar to the arguments above on the value of an educational system, there is great value in having a healthy populace and one which can expect some reasonable degree of economic stability. Both states of affairs lead to people making more rational economic decisions and to being more willing to spend and to invest (rather than merely saving in low, or zero, growth activities) and thus doing more to grow the economy and provide a greater revenue stream for the business. Hence the liberal business model would run, even at a loss, a social safety net and social insurance. These certainly include the existing poverty programs, but also Social Security, FDIC, and, in the not too distant future, national health insurance. So in the liberal business model the social safety net and social insurance functions are means by which the main business can increase its customer base. Therefore, they themselves need not be profitable, if they increase the customer base by enough.

Similar arguments can be put forth under the liberal business model for the transportation network, the power grid, securing the airwaves for broadcast media and other such government activities as means of increasing the customer base.

Finally, I think part of the business model is to have the government place reasonable restrictions on the use of national resources such as the atmosphere, the ground water, rivers and streams as places for dumping waste. There is no reason to provide these resources for free. Also, in the liberal business model we are trying to keep the business running profitably far into the future, so we do not wish to allow these general resources to be consumed in the short term, leaving the business with an impoverished customer base in the longer term.

In short, it seems to me, that if one actually tries to put together a reasonable business model, one comes up with the liberal agenda, at least on economic issues. My point is not to say that we need to try and sound more like Republicans in order to win. I suspect that to a large portion of the liberal readers, the language that I used is troubling. I do not want those folks to think that I am calling for this kind of language to be used all the time to describe the liberal agenda. We do need to call on people to support liberalism because it is generous and good and right. However, I do believe that at this point in time, although our agenda is far better for the country, many people are turned off by the language we typically use. Too many folks that would approve of our policies if they understood the substance, get turned of by language that sounds to them like socialism and they never come to understand the substance. I put forth the above description of a business model to provide a set of tools for talking to people of that mind set.

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