Boo to the Business World

One thing I find annoying is when people suggest that the government should be run more like a business. In my mind, it’s already run too much like one, in that it’s full of people more concerned with short-term personal gain than anything else. I guess what they mean is more along the lines of fiscal responsibility, but I’m not sure even that holds too much water in a time when private industries are looking to the government for bailouts.

A balanced budget is probably a good idea in ordinary circumstances, but I think exceptions need to be made in emergencies. You know, like now, when the economy is depressed and it’s practically impossible to find a job, not to mention the environmental problems and two military quagmires. The thing is, the government has, or at least SHOULD have, responsibilities that private industry doesn’t. At least theoretically, the government is there to support and protect its citizens, not to turn a profit. That’s not to say that the United States just keep on borrowing money from China, just that a government that puts money first isn’t doing what I see as its primary duty.


I also remember the topic coming up in library school as to whether libraries should be run more like businesses. I guess I’m somewhat biased as far as that goes, because the word “business” automatically sounds scary to me. But really, how CAN a library be run like a business when it’s not turning a profit? I’ve heard it said that some librarians now prefer the term “customers” to “patrons,” which I think is a bit insulting. I guess “customer” is supposed to be a GOOD thing in this context, as in “the customer is always right,” but I hear the term and think more along the lines of “buy something or get out.”

Mind you, some stores are now referring to their customers as “guests,” so I’m not sure anyone is happy with the current terminology. If I’m a guest, doesn’t that mean I’m owed hospitality WITHOUT buying anything? Getting back to libraries, though, one thing I find interesting is that there seems to have been a bit of a development in the opposite direction, with bookstores becoming more like libraries. I can’t recall too many bookstores in my childhood that encouraged hanging around and reading stuff you don’t intend to buy, but now places like Borders and Barnes & Noble are totally like that, with chairs and everything. I don’t know how this has affected sales, but it puts a lot less pressure on the customers, and I’m cool with that.

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2 Responses to Boo to the Business World

  1. vilajunkie says:

    Wow. You’re really all over the place with this post. Don’t quite know how to respond to it all. But I do think it’s silly that retail calls customers “guests” and Disney calls its staff “cast members”. Businesses try so hard to not be seen as just there to turn a profit, so why should we encourage the government to consider itself a business?

    • Nathan says:

      I didn’t think it was THAT scattered, but I do usually go off on a lot of tangents in posts like this. But yeah, it seems like business is trying to be seen as more casual, so saying you want to run something else like a business feels a little backwards.

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