Contradiction: Democracy and business

Another contradiction I noticed (five years ago, forgot, and was reminded of today): Some people say we should run the government like a business. They often say voting for a certain person for political office is good because the person has experience in business. At the same time, many of these people will express adoration for democracy. And, no, they are not suggesting business ought to be democratized. (For leftists who want to democratize the workplace, there’s no contradiction here.)

Running the government like a business is silly enough on its own. States have many purposes. Ideally the well-being of the population is high on the list. For most people, that’s at least an ideal to aim for. Businesses aim to profit. Some have subsidiary aims, but monetary or capital gain is the primary aim. (There are some businesses, like Sears, that have been seized and abused for personal gain, but that’s even further from what we want from a state.)

Inherent silliness aside, extoling democracy (and equality) at the same time is paradoxical. Businesses are almost all run in a very hierarchical model. And in practice you usually see them ignoring democratic ideals for the sake of reverence to the structural hierarchy. (But you also see the opposite—like many of these paradoxical pairs of beliefs, usually the convenient one for the moment is the one that comes out. If the structural authorities are in their favor, the respect for structural authority comes out. If not, suddenly a need for more democratic freedom is needed. There is, at bottom, no principle.)

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