It is fashionable, especially in conservative circles, to say government should run like a business. Fashionable, but dangerous. Business people take risks and often fail. Bad judgment can mean bankruptcy and ruin.
Government is not a business. You don’t need a long memory to know that if you play fast and loose with the national economy, everyone suffers. But the real danger in making government a business is that a business is authoritarian, not democratic. Ever elect your boss?
Businesses are designed, properly, to promote private interest; governments are set up to promote the public interest. Sometimes they converge. But more often they are adversaries, and should be.
One of the fathers of modern democratic thought, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, called “moneyed interests” the biggest threat to democracy, saw popular government as a bulwark against them, and predicted that if those interests captured the government, justice would be overwhelmed by wealth and force.
Today more than ever those interests have laid claim to the Republican Party. From the insult of trickle-down economics to self-serving tax cuts, they have given us the income distribution of a banana republic. And now that Citizens United has turned corporations into people, who better than Donald Trump to lead them to their goal: Corporatism — government of business by business for business.
Benito Mussolini, who surely knew it when he saw it, said, “Fascism should more properly be called Corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
This election is not about the usual competing visions for the republic. It is an existential referendum on democracy. We already work in an authoritarian system. Do we really want to live in one, too?