Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Are Governments more Trustworthy than Corporations?

The big sales pitch for socialism over free enterprise, for the government taking control of corporations, is that it's for "the protection of the people." But while there's no question that corporations are often corrupt, monopolistic and abusive-- so is government. There's a simple reason for that, guns don't kill people, and corporations don't steal from or abuse people. Only people do. And people will take those human failings with them into the boardroom as much as they will into the halls of government.

Corporate corruption is a reflection of human greed. Corporate misbehavior is the product of universal human moral failings, which exist just as much in any other highly organized institution, including government. There is nothing uniquely "evil" about corporations, and nothing uniquely "good" about government. Both are examples of human institutions, which contain plenty of examples of both good and bad behavior.

To believe that government should control corporations, you would have to assume one of four things.

1. That government is more competent than corporations.

2. That government is more representative than corporations are.

3. That government is more moral, incorruptible and ethical than corporations are.

4. That government is more trustworthy because it lacks a profit motive.

I think we can safely throw the idea of Number 1 out the window right off the bat. Most things the government does cost more, are less efficient and less likely to succeed. As much as corporations fail, the government fails more.

The average government office does less for more money, with less transparency, more overhead, worse customer service and no workable plan for the future. That applies to government in general as well. The only reason government survives is that it can do what corporations can't, forcibly tax businesses and the general public to keep funding its own ventures.

Furthermore many top government officials have washed out of the business world, e.g. Bush and Obama. That doesn't suggest a high standard of competence when the highest leaders in government are people who couldn't succeed in business.

So to argue that government control of business will be in any result in those businesses being better run, as Obama claims, is contradicted by the sheer weight of evidence and common sense. We can take a look at the results of Communism and Socialism, as well as a practical comparison of how well government agencies vs businesses operate to reach that conclusion.

On to Number 2 then, are governments more representative than corporations?

On the surface of it, the answer might be yes. After all we believe in one man, one vote. Corporations answer to their shareholders, the rich. Government is supposed to answer to the common man. Of course if you seriously believe that, you're either in elementary school or hopelessly naive. Governments and corporations both answer to much the same people. The odds of getting your Congressman or Senator's ear greatly improves with the amount of money you donate to his campaign. Don't have any money? Better hope he's feeling charitable or can use your case to promote himself. Which is much the same reason corporations help people.

Representative government depends on elections within a limited party system. Winning an election requires money. The money comes from many of the same people who run the corporations. Representative government turns out to be more representative to the rich than to the people they represent.

For that matter you can buy a few shares of stock and ask a question at a shareholder's meeting of a corporate CEO. Try getting into a Cabinet meeting and asking the President a question, without spending the next 48 hours in a jail cell.

In sum total, government is not particularly more representative than corporations are.

On to Number 3 then, are governments less subject to corruption and more ethical than corporations are?

The spectacle of CEO's being marched off to jail is counterbalanced with no shortage of Congressmen being marched off to jail as well. Corporate corruption is counterbalanced with no shortage of government corruption. Embezzlement, corruption, lies, fraud, deceit, abuse of power and all that grab bag of malevolence is just as present in government as in corporate life.

Even the most die hard liberal would have trouble denying that government is any more moral and ethical than the corporation.

With that we come to Number 4, that the structure of government makes it more ethical or moral than corporations, because its calling is nobler and it lacks a profit motive.

On the face of it this notion seems absurd. Government officials get paid hefty salaries, perhaps smaller ones than corporate executives, but at the higher levels far more than the average American can expect to see. The frequency with which bribes and kickbacks occur, makes the idea of confusing non-profit with the lack of a profit motive even more absurd.

But is profit motive itself a bad thing? That question underlies the left's preference for regulating businesses using government. For championing "non-profits" over privatization. And that comes from their knee jerk opposition to capitalism itself.

The underlying argument goes back a long way but it ties into the most basic questions of civil rights and human freedoms. And the most dangerous of those questions is, do we consider property to be individually owned or collectively owned?

That particular argument predates the French Revolution. It split some of the major Enlightenment philosophers as well as some key figures in the American Revolution. And it is at the heart of the question of whether Free Enterprise and commerce is a Natural Right, or a regulated activity. If commerce is a natural right like speech or religion or assembly, then not only can government have only a limited ability to regulate it at best, but it has no moral right to regulate it.

While the Constitution never went so far, the American experiment fell on the side of free enterprise and individual property ownership. That was not however the case in Europe, where ironically many of the same people working to liberate the common man from the state of peasantry and serfdom, did so by advancing collective theories of property. Rather than attacking monarchy by ending its monopolization of land and opening it up to individual use and exploitation, they instead viewed all land as being the common property of the people. Which meant that no individual could own it, and only a body of men who acted on "behalf of the people" could supervise its use. Namely the government.

Thus when Lenin spoke of giving land to the peasants, he meant it in the collective sense in which all Russians would own the land in a collective sense, without any of them actually owning a square inch of land. But you don't have to go as far as Lenin to see plenty of examples of this same view of collective property ownership in Europe and America. The utilitarian idea that property laws exist only to promote what the government decides is the general welfare is at the heart of virtually every Western political system today. It is at the heart of the UN's treaties about deep water mining or exploitation of the moon, which we have accepted as law.

And from that same standpoint, the government can and should regulate and control any and every aspect of business it chooses. From a Constitutional standpoint, it's the right of individuals to engage in commerce. From the Collectivist standpoint, individuals owning property and running companies can only do so at the behest of the guardians of that collective property, namely the government.

Business and corporations from a Collectivist perspective are a form of robbery from the "collective", the people who actually own all of it in sum. Property is not a right, it's theft. Commerce is exploitation. Business is crime. And the victim is "the government" which should be collectively managing all that industry, as Obama did when he mandated changes to the boards and management of major banks and now General Motors.

This Collectivist perspective explains why many liberals insist on advancing the disproven position that government is in any way more fit to control corporations, than their own executives. It is at the heart of the long war against business in the West.

And so we come to the reason for the liberal preference for government and non-profits, the guardians of the "collective property" of the people, over for profit corporations. It is at the heart of it a debate about the nature of civil rights and natural law, over the question of whether we have a right to commerce, or only a "permission to commerce" under the thumb of the appropriate government official. That is the debate we should be having now. And as the Ninth or Tenth have not sufficed, it may be time to settle that debate with one more amendment.


Anonymous said...

Business, Corporations and Free Market are good. They have to compete against each other to keep their customers happy and therefore, the people are the one who are gaining from it.

When you nationalize something you are toasted.


1- Québec has nationalized it electricity: Hydro-Québec. Even though we get our electricity a bit cheaper than the other provinces, we get poor service. If we are not satisfied with their service, we cannot go anywhere to get electricity; we are stuck with them, and they know it and they don't give a damn about their customer’s service. With the years, they hired more personnel, all unionize of course, and their salaries are huge. So the electricity bill is raised 3 times a year and now there is not a big difference with the other provinces, it won't be long before we pay more then them.

2- Alberta did not nationalize their oil. They were smart. Alberta is now the richest province of Canada and Québec is the poorest one.

Same thing with socialized medicine: You have time to die before you see a doctor or get scheduled for an operation. So rich people go to the States to receive treatments.

When medicine is a private sector, they want your clientele. They take good care of you... you are a "revenue" for them. But when the government runs it, they would prefer not to have you; you are not revenue for them you are a loss.

Government plays with your money, it is not their money. So they don't care if they spend it on stupid things. When they will run out of your money, they will tax you some more.

Business world plays with their own money and they are accountable to their shareholders. They cannot spend it on stupid things; they have to make a surplus so they can survive. If they don't, they are doomed.

Governments cannot give you anything that has not been taken from someone else, cause they make no money by themselves. It is pure robbery and redistribution of wealth.

Business world can sell you better products at better prices due to the competition. And because they succeed, they create more jobs and prosperity for the country.

Government should stay out of people business. Regulations are what caused the mess with the sub primes and the failing of your economy.

Government should remain small and provide only the basic things, like Army, Courts, Police, etc.

(French Canadian)

Lemon said...

Government police? No way.
Just post office and military for defense from foreigners and those things mentioned in the constitution.

Drum said...

sure, competition in the private sector business is good, but business has tended towards monopoly or near monopoly, and has fought against genuine competition. government regulation of some kind is needed to curb the excesses of business, just like private property is needed to curb the excesses of government.

Sultan Knish said...

Despite government regulation, monopolies arise naturally anyway. What destroys monopolies ultimately is innovation. Government regulation that breaks up monopolies, only ends up creating new monopolies, as in the telecom industry.

Anonymous said...

You are right Sultan. Only innovation can destroy a monopoly. And this is good. It pushes people to be more innovative. We have seen this happen many times in different fields. A company reaches a monopoly and a brilliant guy gets a better idea and dethrones the monopoly. This is a fair play game! You can't sit on your success, you always have to aim higher.

(French Canadian)

susan h said...

Sultan: Thanks for this interesting article.

In your last paragraph, you mention "that is the debate we should be having now". Unfortunately, with the Obama administration, there does not seem to be any debate going on. He and Pelosi and those who now think they run the world have already decided on what "they think is best" and are sneakily (not sure if that is word) and underhandedly pushing through a nationalization while pretending to foster bi-partisanship and transparency. Using the 51 rule vote eliminates the need for even a 60 vote majority in the Senate. I do not see Obama having a debate on any issue. He is already ruling like a dictator while pretending to be otherwise. It will only get worse. He may use the words bi-partisan and transparency, just like he used the words HOPE and CHANGE, and since everyone seemed to like those words, he is counting on the fact that the mere mention of bi-partisan and transparency will be enough. NO need to actually be transparent or bi-partisan.

It is a well known fact, while corporations have workers who are not productive, government has the most non-productive employees. They cannot be fired, there is absolutely no accountability, and many don't care and are excessive time wasters. In a corporation, eventually that will come to the attention of supervisors and adjustments can be made. Not so with civil servant, government type employees. You see this everywhere in Illinois on the State and City levels, where so many people get "patronage" jobs. They walk around without a care and often without doing a thing. (I apologize to those who are hard workers - unfortunately there are not enough of you around). If government takes over, will the only people who get jobs then be those who support the administration? Rumor has it already people are being asked to sign oath cards that they support Obama. What if you would refuse to sign the oath? If government would be in control of businesses, would you not be able to get a job? (I imagine this is how communist countries operate). I may be getting ahead of myself with this discussion. Sorry.

Sultan Knish said...

Yes there are no debates allowed, just as there were no substantive discussions during the election itself, and so we've turned over control of not only our government, but our businesses and our society to a corrupt and unqualified gang of radical agitators and criminal thugs

Anonymous said...

" we've turned over control of not only our government, but our businesses and our society to a corrupt and unqualified gang of radical agitators and criminal thugs,"

Right on the dot again, Sultan. So this is why I believe that the first words of your Constitution "We the People"... should NOW take all it's meaning and power.

The Fifth amendement gives you the power you need to act against your corrupted government:

"The Constitution of the United States, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, gives rise to a FOURTH BRANCH of Government, THE GRAND JURY. We the people have been charged with oversight of the government in our roles as grand jurors":

“Justice Powell, in United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 343 (1974), stated:

“The institution of the grand jury is deeply rooted in Anglo-American history. [n3] In England, the grand jury [p343] served for centuries both as a body of accusers sworn to discover and present for trial persons suspected of criminal wrongdoing and as a protector of citizens AGAINST ARBITRARY AND OPPRESSIVE GOVERNMENT ACTION. In this country, the Founders thought the grand jury so essential to basic liberties that they provided in the Fifth Amendment that federal prosecution for serious crimes can only be instituted by “a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury.” Cf. Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 361-362 (1956). The grand jury’s historic functions survive to this day. Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665, 686-687 (1972).” Justice Scalia also mentions it many times on other cases.

So please use it. Too see all details regarding the Grand Jury, go to this new website blog:

There are other things you can do:

Join: Tea Parties — Grand Juries — Federal, State Birth Certificate lawsuits — Twitter, Facebook, YouTube conservative activities — Political Activist blogs — Conservative talk radio — anti-Obama logos, stickers, books, photographs — pro-rights, pro-life, pro-energy, pro-religion — pro anything that speaks for a FREE America.(Bob Cambell)

(French Canadian)

Keli Ata said...

Susan--oath cards sounds spooky. On the surface level, it reminds me of those rings the Jonas Brothers wear, vowing to remain virgins until they're married.

On the darker seems a bit like a reverse of the Nazis forcing Jews to wear yellow stars. No Obama Oath Card and you get subpar medical care and all manner of discrimination.

Pledging loyality to any government official? No way. Not in this country.

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