Sunday, June 20, 2010

Government As A Business

It seems to me that the fundamental interaction to business is that I need other people to do stuff for me so what can I do in return for them. This interaction does not need to be cutthroat capitalism, it is better for all if it is not. Nearly all such trades are going to be positive sum, both parties are better off, so it can be perfectly friendly. There need be nothing brutal about business. And yet what do we see around us.

The thing with seeing government as a business, is what does it do for which it can charge money. It seems to me that government provides a host of really valuable services for which it ought to be charging money. Copyright protection is, according to the content industry, really valuable. Incorporation is a form of insurance against investment loss and is, as such, really valuable. The broadcast and telecommunications industries depend upon the federal government licensing the radio spectrum. I could go on. The problem I see is that we are charging way to little for these services. It is not that we need to tax the rich per se, it should not be punishment for being rich. Rather we should be charging for the services we provide. And that amounts to running it like a business. If government were charging for these services, rather than giving them away, it would seriously curtail the degree of corporate entitlement, the excess money into lobbying and other such stresses on our society.

What to do with the money? I would suggest, given the things that the government does, that we would want to spend it on having a well educated, generally healthy, stable, secure and prosperous population and an infrastructure of transportation, communication and power distributions.

Who owns this business? I’d say the citizens of the US own it jointly. Essentially it is itself a corporation in which each citizen has a share, all shares are voting shares and the shares are not trade-able nor transferable. You can’t accumulate them. So we the people ought to be charging more for the services we provide (at least those services which are used to generate revenue) and spending it on the things I mention. In this view most of the things you would refer to as public goods, can also be seen as the things needed to run the business. My point is definitely not to disparage the concept of the public good but to suggest that thinking of the government as a business need not decrease the value of those things.

Basically, if viewed sensibly I believe that consistent and coherent view of the government as business can only lead to liberal policies.

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