Despite how (and for whom) National Ltd govern, the nation state is still not a business; nor will it ever be.
Bryan Gould has a good article on the difference between government and business – and why businessmen often make bad politicians (take note Steven Joyce). Concepts that work well in business often don’t flow through to a government managing an entire economy.
For a start the economy requires government spending to be counter-cyclical. You balance the books in the good times (thanks Michael Cullen), and spend in recession to keep money flowing – so it’s not harder for workers and businesses than needs be. Labour understood and introduced a spending program just before the election. They didn’t get to ramp it up properly, so we have far more unemployment than we need to have. National’s program instead consists of cuts, an increase in GST to depress sales and the economy further, and tax cuts for the rich who have the ability to ride out a recession anyway.
National also fall for the “lump of labour” fallacy – the belief that there is a fixed amount of work available and that the task is to decide how that is to be shared out. But by investing during a recession you create jobs. And those jobs create incomes, which allows spending, which creates jobs, which…
Instead National cut. Operating like a business that needs to batten down the hatches in difficult times they throw men overboard and cut the lifeblood of the country. We all suffer.
Connected to this is that measurements of success are vastly different in business and government. The businessman (& National Ltd) see only the famous “bottom line”. It is all about the mighty dollar. Governments are representatives of their citizens (all too often figuratively rather than literally); as such they should represent their best interests. Much like CEOs forgetting the shareholders they’re meant to be enriching when they give themselves another hefty pay-rise, National fail to care about the citizens they’re supposed to be representing.
The measurements of success for a society is the health and happiness of its citizens, not the fiscal deficit. Whilst we need to live within our means, no citizen is better off without a job. They don’t do better when your policies and pay stinginess mean that teachers and health professionals are striking. People aren’t happier the more you spend on prisons, their mental health is not improved by you cutting their access to ready education in their community. They don’t lead fuller lives when you reduce the ability to get a good start in life with quality early childhood education.
National need to realise that a society is its citizens, not a set of numbers. An economy is made of people, more than it is made up of dollars. And government is for the people, not for the accounts ledger.