Why doesn't government run like a corporation?
I have heard this lame question so often - I am beginning to get numb.
I am 6'3" Yep - I am extremely tall. Guess what question I get asked all of the time? Do you play basketball? I mean REALLY! My favorite response to that is, "No, but do you play minature golf?"
I also feel like saying something smarmy back when people talk about the inefficiencies of government and ponder why government can't run like a corporation. First of all, having seen both sides of this - government and corporations - corporations have very little to brag about. Corporations can be disfunctional, dark, and weird places. And corporations fail all of the time. The survival rate is very slim. Government can't fail. That is not an option unless you want everything - schools, electricity, commerce, emergency response, the mail! - to come to a grinding halt.
In the February 22, 2010 issue of Newsweek - An article called "America, Inc" by Andrew Romano and Michael Hirsh was discussing the trend of corporate CEOs putting their hats in the political ring and reasoning that they could clean things up and run government like a great corporation. One ex-CEO turned governor, Jon Corzine, begged to differ with that statement. He, too, felt that his experience as CEO of Goldman Sachs would turn the State of New Jersey around. But concludes that "The idea that your accountable to a bottom line and to a payroll in managing a business - it gives voters the confience that you have the right skills [to govern]. Buyt its 20,000 people versus 9 million. I don 't think candidates ge the tscale and scope of what governing is. You don't have the flexibility you imagined. There's no exact translation."
Newsweek goes on to say "Very little that happens inside a corporate suite is like governing a state or a country. CEO's, like generals, can issue orders and expect them to be carried out. Jobs and budgets can be pared by fiate, with little public controversy. It's not nearly as simple for governors, or senators - even presidents. Their authority is never absolute. They are constrained by the separation of powers and forced to ride teh giger of public opinion. They must persuade, cajole, and arm-twist to get their way. As Harry Truman once said about his presidential successor. Dwight Eisenhower: "He'll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike - it won't be a bit like the Army.""
What is the best a political leader can do - face the issues head on - begin the discussion - and then hang on for a rough ride. They can start the ball rolling, but they can hardly finish the job on their own. No, governments can't be run like corporations. And no, I don't play basketball.
Governmental auditors unite! Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of “The Yellow Book Interpreted” and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors. Whether you are an internal auditor or monitor for a government entity or a CPA doing grant audits, you will enjoy Leita’s humorous take on the complexity of auditing in the government environment.