New Brunswick's Premier Alward has announced that he will hire private business people to tell him how to run the government. (Somehow, I can't help thinking of him as one of the characters from Toy Story and, no, I don't mean Buzz Albright.) Some of the questions this announcement raises are obvious.
For example, ff running a government is like running a business, why do we have political parties and elections? Why don't we just do it like business does, and appoint the boss' son. Works for North Korea.
Obviously, the thinking (if one can call it that) which lies beneath Mr. Alward's decision is that business is more efficient than government. Funny how propaganda can have such an effect. Nazi propaganda had Germans believing they were winning the war right up to the last days. Americans believe their's is the land of the free, even though they can now be imprisoned, perhaps for life, with no charge or trial. They believe their form of business is the best in the world, even as their own eyes can see the poverty, ruin, and homelessness it has brought the whole western world to.
Propaganda is powerful
Business is efficient? Really? If it's so efficient, why isn't New Brunswick more prosperous? After all, the province has been run by business for well over a hundred and fifty years. There certainly has been no time since 1867 in which big business did not finance and direct New Brunswick governments. When Mr. Alward says he's going to bring in big business, he is just making official what has always been obvious. And our own eyes can tell us that as a useful idea this is nonsense.
If big business in New Brunswick is so efficient, how come it needs so much propping up in the form of low, low taxes, low, low electricity rates, loans, government contracts, low minimum wages and outright gifts?
If business is so efficient, how come Public/Private Partnerships seem to produce less quality and higher costs than the old days of government doing the work on its own?
Big business now, already, officially advises government on the budget. In fact, big business has largely been setting the budgets for the whole history of this province. So how come our budgets are still such disasters?
If big business is so effecient, how come the American medical system is at once the least efficient and the most expensive one in the world? How come a baby's chance of survival at birth is higher over most of the developed world (and some of the undeveloped world) than it is in the US?
If business is so efficient, how come the spread of privatization of education in the US has made it an international basket case?
Big business is motivated by self-interest and greed. That's not just calling names. Leaders in modern big business all over the world have publicly admired the writing of Ayn Rand that lauds greed and self-interest as desirable.
Do you think it's a really good idea to have your life controlled by people who think their own greed and self-interest are good for you?
Is big business more efficient when it comes to honesty? Establishing regularions? Then how come the whole, American system has come crashing down because of dishonesty, corruption, and greed?
And do you seriously think that the shale gas industry (just to choose an example) could be trusted to set effective regulations for gas explorations and drilling? Hell. It won't even repect the flimsy rules we have.
Where, in defiance of all we can see around us, do we get the idea that big business is efficient?
It all goes back to World War Two. The previous war of 1914 had shown that private business was an economic disaster in the crises of wartime. It was expensive, inflationary, disorganized, self-serving...
Most of the world learned a lesson from that. The major powers in World War Two placed extensive power in government to control and plan the wartime economy. Civil servants set prices, quotas, interest rates, everything. And it was wildly successful as Canada ended the war with a booming economy, little inflation, few shortages.
The first reaction of big business was to recognize that the civil service was more efficient than big business was. For almost ten years after the war, then, it was common for big businesses to send their senior peope to Ottawa to study civil service methods. Then big business recognized the danger of that. It was advertising itself as being inefficient - and thereby encouraging crazy ideas like medicare and pensions.
That's when big business began organizing and financing "think tanks" like AIMS, propaganda institutes working with the close cooperation of newspapers owned by big business. The essential message is always the same. Big business good. Government bad. And fifty years of propaganda have worked. And so we - or a great many of us - can stand in the middle of the desolation caused by generations of greed, corruption, and dishonesty. and say, "Yep. It's all the fault of them there civil servants and welfare people. What we need is business methods in government."
Ah, well. In the old days, a Premier Alward at least would have restricted himself to kissing babies on their facial cheecks. Now, he kisses corporation bosses on their other cheeks.