Government is not a business

Edward Keenan over at Eye Weekly makes the point I kept hoping Ford’s opponents in the election would make:

Still, while we’re at it, we should keep in mind that the people of Toronto are not actually customers of the city, we’re citizens and residents. Similarly, the corporation of the City of Toronto is not primarily a business, nor should it be. Though these seem like obvious distinctions, they are too often overlooked in discussions about how to run things around this place.

via Retail politics – EYE WEEKLY.

It does seem ridiculous that this needs to be brought up, but the anti-government rhetoric in our city has been running at full tilt for the past couple of years. It’s rare these days for anyone to even stop and wonder why a profit-driven private deliverer of a service is preferable to a public deliverer that, by definition, doesn’t care a bit about profits.

And, yes, I know the theory behind market efficiencies and the wonders of competition. And I know too the issues we face with public labour unions, who have little reason to ever make concessions in the face of a government that can infinitely increase revenues. But the reality is that simple “run government like a business” or “outsource everything” hand-waving do nothing more than oversimplify issues which are incredibly complex.

One of my favourite bits of cognitive dissonance is when someone argues for government to be run more like a business, then turns around and complains about large private corporations and their screw-you approach to their customers.


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