Government Is Not a Business
In the interest of full disclosure, I do not believe Donald Trump would be a good President.
With that being said, that does not mean I will vote for Hillary. I believe it goes without saying that Hillary Clinton should at most be doing time in prison or at the very least be disqualified as a presidential candidate. However…
In the interest of full disclosure, I believe Trump is just as dangerous as Hillary.
In fact, he may be even more so. At least with Hillary we know what we’re getting. But my own observations have led me to conclude that Trump is a pretender; someone who presents himself to be something he’s not. The Trojan Horse comes to mind (and history shows us just how well that worked out for Troy).
Nevertheless, I know that there are plenty of people who consider themselves “conservatives” who think that Trump is the answer to our nation’s woes. My aim here is not to convince those people otherwise (although by the end of this article you might be). One factor that people often point to with regard to Trump is this notion that he is a successful businessman. The merits of such a statement are subject to speculation, especially when one considers Trump’s four bankruptcies, his pending litigation with regard to Trump University, his failed business ventures like Trump Steaks, and the fact that he refuses to open his tax records for public scrutiny. But the topic I would like for you to consider is the question of, does being a successful businessman mean you will be a successful President? Or asked another way, should you run a government like you run a business? (Please notice I said “should” and not “can”)
As a small business owner, I am often amazed by the assumptions most people have when it comes to private business. Probably the greatest fallacy that people have is this idea that a business, any business, exists for the sole purpose of providing them (the consumer) with something they need or want. While this is ultimately an end result of business, it is only a secondary purpose at best.
You must first understand that a business is an independent entity. It exists for the sole purpose of providing for the needs and desires of the OWNER, who is also an independent entity. The reason most people don’t get this is because most of us have been conditioned to think that selfishness is evil. But that is not the case. Believe it or not, the Bible even presents selfishness in a positive manner.
“… Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” ~ Matthew 22:39
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” ~ Galatians 5:14
“For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it…” ~ Ephesians 5:29
You will notice that the Bible doesn’t tell us to love ourselves LESS than others. It tells us to love others AS MUCH AS we love ourselves. Loving oneself is intrinsic to who we are as individuals. It is not evil to love oneself. It is in fact a necessary part of survival and self-preservation. We are wired in such a way to instinctively seek out those things that will help further our own existence. Ayn Rand called this the “virtue of selfishness”.
In the quest for furthering one’s existence, some people will discover that they are particularly adept at some skill and will then use that skill to produce those things they need to sustain life; farming, building, making clothes, etc. Those who are especially adept discover that they end up with a surplus of production. Rather than letting the surplus go to waste, they seek out others who may have a surplus of their own production – something they the deem necessary for their own existence – and enter into a fair exchange with another individual, value for value. Trade is nothing more than two individuals, each with a surplus of production, entering into a fair exchange of value. And thus, a business enterprise is born.
So you see, any individual engaging in a business venture is doing so in order to meet his own perceived needs. Therefore, those things produced by a business are a product of the business owner; the individual. A business therefore is a representation of the individual; his “self”. It belongs to him because he produced it. And so, because it belongs to him, it is up to the business owner and him alone to decide how to dispose of it, according to that which will best help him to further his means of sustaining his own existence.
A mutual exchange of value for value is the key to every inter-personal relationship throughout the course of our lives. And it is up to each individual to determine what constitutes “fair and equitable”, and if one party does not consider the exchange to be fair, then he is under no obligation to engage in it.
This mutual exchange extends to employees. When the means of production have become too overwhelming for the business owner to handle by himself, rather than reduce production, he may deem it desirable to hire a labor force to expedite production. This brings up another false assumption that people have about business – that businesses exist to create jobs. My response to this is a resounding NO! Businesses are not in the business of producing jobs, they are in the business of production for the benefit of the business owner alone! But when labor becomes necessary to the success of the owner in achieving his ends, he determines wages based on what he decides to be the value of the TASK, NOT the value of the worker. A potential worker can then decide if he wishes to engage in such an exchange (his labor for agreed-upon wages). But it is important to note that neither party compels the other to engage in an exchange that is not deemed mutually beneficial by both.
Because the business owner is motivated by moral self-interest, any power he has is self-appointed. In other words, he can take whatever steps necessary to achieve his ends, which is rooted in furthering his own existence. The only restraint to his power is another self-actualizing individual. His power ends where another begins. His power cannot violate another individual from furthering his existence. One “self” cannot violate another “self”.
From a certain aspect, the individual/business is much like a tyrant. He makes the rules to benefit himself. He has the liberty to dispose of his resources as he sees fit because he is the owner of them (yes, even labor because remember that labor has been “purchased” in exchanged for something of value that has been mutually agreed upon) because he produced them. They are a representation of “self”. He is free to take whatever action he thinks is necessary to achieve his ends of furthering his ability to exist. But such tyranny and pragmatism is tempered by the morality of mutual exchange of value.
These same characteristics apply even if the business is a corporation. While a corporation is in reality a “collective” that consists of a CEO, board of directors, and shareholders, it is technically considered to be a individual entity, much like a “body” is made up of individual “parts” that function as a whole. Therefore, the same truisms that apply to an individual business owner also hold true for a corporation.
But a government (and for argument’s sake, let us assume the U.S. federal government as prescribed by the Constitution) is not a business. A government does not exist for the benefit of itself. A government exists to secure and preserve the RIGHTS of the individual. The “Founding Fathers” understood this when they penned these words in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”
If there can be said to be any moral justification for government, it is here. We acknowledge that the rights of the individual are endowed to them by virtue of them being individual “self”. That “self” has the right to seek out those things which further its own existence. That government is practical in helping to ensure that such rights are not violated.
So first and foremost, government is not a business because government is not a “self”. If anything, it is a collective appointed by many “selfs” for the express benefit of those “selfs”. Said another way, government is not self-actualizing and it does not exist to serve its own interest, it exists for the express purpose of serving another.
And this brings us to another point, that government only exists by consent. It cannot wield any power without that power first being loaned to it by the consent of those of whom it is to govern. A business needs no consent to exist or wield power any more than an individual needs consent to exercise his power to live. Without consent, however, ANY government is immoral because it presumes to usurp for itself that which does not belong to it.
A third point to consider is that government produces nothing. Let me say that again. Government is a producer of nothing! For government to be a producer it would have to have something of value to offer as a representation “self”, and we have already established that government is not a “self”. And since it is not a “self” and produces nothing, it has nothing to offer in an exchange of value. Unless of course it first confiscates what someone else has produced. Before government can “give” you anything it must first take it from someone else, most often by force. This is the definition of theft.
For these very reasons, by definition and by the proper and moral usage of government, government MUST NOT be run like a business. Any government that attempts to run as such ultimately ends up tyrannical and becomes destructive of the rights of the individual.
Therefore, since government is not a business, the notion that someone would make a good president because he was a good businessman should not even be offered for consideration. I would submit that our federal government has been already been operating like a business (granted, a poorly run business) for far too long. It has been operating for the benefit of itself and those in its collective body instead of operating for the purpose of securing individual rights. Government does not need a different CEO, it needs to operate within the constraints placed upon it by consent of the governed as enumerated by the Constitution.
Is Donald Trump a good businessman? Perhaps. How does he function as a businessman? He spends other people’s money (investors) and then goes bankrupt leaving those investors out to dry. He engages in business ventures that lure in consumers with bait-and-switch tactics. He oversteps the bounds of law in order to achieve his own desired benefit for his business at the expense of others. He uses power, money, and influence to coerce others to do what he wants. Could not the same be said of Hillary? Trump claims he is not a politician, but haven’t politicians engaged in these very same behaviors for decades?
In the end, the argument doesn’t come down to Hillary vs. Trump or whether or not you think Trump is a good businessman or whether or not you think he’s a politician. The argument is first and foremost about the proper role and use of government. The argument is about finding a leader who will be willing to operate under constraint.