Governing is Not Like Running A Business

On the NPR program "Day to Day" (May 4 2006),  Doug Sutherland, Lands Commissioner for Washington State, says:

"I got rid of bare land…As forest land, it had little or no value."

Reporter Austin Jenkins continues: 

Sutherland fiercely defends the land swap as a smart business move. He says the forest was no longer earning any money for Washington schools; by contrast, the Walgreen’s (drug store) will bring in nearly half-a-million dollars (per) year.

In Idaho, the Director of the Department of Lands is "fulfilling his responsibility to maximize long-term profits"….

"Do I feel funny about it? Not really, because we’re running a business and businesses to be successful need to be alert to new opportunities….I just see this as a legitimate outgrowth of the urbanization that’s taking place in a lot of the Western communities".

The thought that running the government is akin to "running a business" is wrong-headed. Governing the public is nothing like managing a commercial business. The motivations are different. The success metrics are different. The engagement is different.

Good Government works in the public trust. Good Government does not make decisions based on profit, even when the profit is for public purposes. The public trust — a long-term view for this and future generations — trumps profit every time.

 

 

 

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