On Government in Business

The White House, over the past couple days, has gone in a direction that vividly illustrates why government does not belong in business. Beginning first with Valerie Jarrett’s tweet, then Jay Carney’s press conference, followed by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ testimony before Congress and now President Obama’s speech at Fanueil Hall in Boston, all attribute the broken promises and failures of “Obamacare” to those irresponsible insurance companies who took their products out of the market. It is not the fault of government for first getting involved in business, they claim. The utter disingenuousness of this claim vindicates what former President Coolidge wrote in 1931 as he observed the same phenomenon by a Washington incessantly intervening in commerce,

“Another proposal to be made in the name of relieving unemployment will undoubtedly be an extension of government ownership. Healthy and normal employment consists of serving another for his personal satisfaction or profit. As the government is not personal, its proper business employment would be for those serving for its profit…For the wage earners to benefit in time of general depression it would be necessary to assume that government ownership would prevent fluctuations in the business in which it engages…” As the post office makes clear even now, that never happens. Conditions are anything but stable after government takes over.

“It is assumed,” Coolidge continued, “that payment of wages will go on without work, that is not employment, but relief. Then no one should work.” Any system relying on the work of a few to support the many cannot, nor ought, to succeed. It places an immoral burden on the individual to work that others may reap the rewards of his labor. In another era, that was not known as progress, nor even liberalism, but it was nothing less than slavery.

Finally, the insightful Mr. Coolidge comes to the heart of the issue: “The government has never shown much aptitude for real business.” The challenge of providing a competitive good or service, operating from a profit, making payroll, acquiring the best equipment, cutting expenses and hiring qualified people have never been concerns to government. It can ignore all of these components and still levy more taxes to cover its waste and pass stricter regulations to change the “rules of the game,” at its convenience.

Instead, Coolidge reminds his readers, “The most free, progressive and satisfactory method ever devised for the equitable distribution of property is to permit the people to care for themselves by conducting their own business. They have more wisdom than any government.”

The actions of insurance companies have not occurred in a vacuum. They directly correlate to what the White House has forced on everyone, outside the favored few. The administration’s latest string of ignorant invectives against business underscores yet again how little government understands about operating a company in the market and how much they are counting on our cluelessness when it comes to its oppressive involvement in the economy.

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2 thoughts on “On Government in Business

  1. Spot on AGAIN! IN the 1993 discussions of Hillary care she was quoted as explaining why government should take over the decisions in this case for health care. “We just think people will be too focused on saving money and they won’t get the care for their children and themselves that they need” The arrogance of the statement is unbridled but more importantly, it ignores that individuals can have differing perceptions of what is important. I have been amazed (or saddened) that all of the supporters of the ACA seem to think that they understand our needs better than we do. It goes back to what Hayek called the “Fatal Conceit”

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