Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who Can We Trust: Business or Government?

I was reading an article today that asked how much freedom we're willing to trade for Google convenience.  That, in and of itself wasn't a big deal (although and interesting question), however, in the comments a poster made a very interesting observation:

This idea that government is benevolent and business inherently evil is one of the most destructively successful pieces of government propaganda in recent history.

Well that made me stop and think.

So, is the poster correct?  Let's look at politics.  What are some of the "evils" we hear about a lot in campaigns and from our elected representatives?  How about "Big Oil", "Big Healthcare", "Big Insurance", etc.  The assumption seems to be that any large company and/or industry is inherently evil.  And who will protect us from those huge, evil companies?  Why our benevolent, helpful government of course!

This is the liberal slant you usually hear from the left.  It doesn't help that there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to illustrate their case.  So are they right?

The conservatives, on the other hand, will talk about government waste, inefficiencies, bad policies (usually blamed on left-leaning politicians), and sometimes even talk about "Big Government" but it's always with the "vote for me and I'll make it good again" line.  So, are they right?

My opinion is this:  Neither business nor government is inherently good or evil.  Their actions are merely reflections of the people running them.  Both institutions want to succeed/protect their territory.  Businesses compete with other businesses, sue for patent infringement, and will try almost anything (where they draw the line is once again determined by the folks running the business) to get ahead and stay ahead.  This may lead to layoffs, outsourcing, cutting corners, and all those things that people hate about "Big Business".  It may also lead to raises, increased hiring, innovations that benefit us, and all those things we love about our standard of living.

Government is actually quite similar to business.  Certain departments seem to stop at nothing to get what they want, whether it's questionable tactics used in going after terrorists, the IRS going after suspected tax evaders, etc.  Others seem more interested in red tape than actually helping, whether it's Unemployment, the DMV, Social Security, etc.  At the same time our government fights wars (whether that's good or bad depends on the person), builds roads, protects the people (military, police, firefighters, etc.), regulates businesses, etc.

I guess, at the end of the day, I have to say that there are no absolutes.  Both business and government have their positive and negative aspects.  Our job is to watch them and, if they get out of line, take the necessary steps to fix the problem (stop buying their products, elect new representatives, petition, etc.)  We have great freedoms and more power most people think, but with that comes a lot of responsibility.  Let's all do our part.