Running the Government Like a Business

The main premise of this neoliberal argument is that businesses are somehow more efficient than the government. However, efficiency in the private sector is not the same as efficiency in the public sector.

In the private sector efficiency can be measured in terms of profit. A good business is one that finds ways to maximize profit and minimize expenditures. This involves strategies like cutting corners, pursuing new markets, ceasing costly ventures, etc.

On the other hand, a government’s efficiency cannot be measured in terms of profit. Attempting to do this would force politicians to cut programs that generate no direct revenue like libraries, museums, highways, public schools and various other services we currently enjoy. Yes, these things have social value, but the bottom line is they do not contribute monetarily to the state and are therefore a burden. So what can be used as a standard of government efficiency?

The obvious answer here is how equally disbursed and well maintained public institutions and programs are. Let’s say SNAP, another program that generates no direct revenue, only manages to cover a third of citizens experiencing food insecurity. We would  consider SNAP inefficient and demand reform to fix it. This reform would not center around finding a way to cut expenditures to the program; the conversation would be about appropriating sufficient funds or creating a process that would accurately target the other two-thirds of starving citizens.


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