Hail the profit

A member of Salon's Table Talk community explains why government takeovers aren't always a bad thing, this week.

Published March 27, 2009 5:19PM (EDT)

White House

President Barack Obama -- No Drama 

popinque - 07:35 pm Pacific Time - Mar 26, 2009 - #2825 of 2828

On what is the assumption of governnmental incompetence based?

The persons employed by the government are almost identical to the persons employed by profit-making enterprises. They are born in the same country, attend similar schools (unless it is claimed that the latter universally attend private schools and the former public schools), worship in the same churches, live in the same neighborhoods, have similar distributions of political affiliations and beliefs.

So how do they differ?

The usual explanation is that the profit motive protects the latter from the errors to which the former, as mere humans unassisted by greed, are prone.

I will not address the fact that it is the hope of profit that motivates all of the crimes which are not inspired by passion. I will confine nyself to the role of the profit motive in ostensibly legal enterprises.

It was the hope of profit that motivated Bernie Madoff to ruin hundreds of people. It was the hope of profit that motivated the frauds of Enron. It was the hope of profit that motivated KBR to build shower rooms for our troops in Iraq that electrocute them. It was the hope of profit that motivated that schmuck in Malaysia to ruin an ancient British bank. It was the hope of profit that motivated that peanut company to poison people all over the U. S. and Canada. It was the hope of profit that led a number of long-established financial firms into our current mess.

Does anybody want to argue that the profit motive protects people in business from error, while similar people in government trip constantly over their own feet?

In fact, thousands of profit-making enterprises depend with childlike faith on the National Bureau of Standards, the weather bureau, the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Library of Congress, and dozens of other governmental agencies without which it would be very difficult indeed to make a profit in many fields of enterprise.

My work here is done, I hope.

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