The Economist has an interesting take in its Schumpeter blog from not-too-long-ago about the appropriateness of managing government like managing a business. The British newsweekly has never hidden its political views, and nobody would accuse it of being anything to the left of a Tory-leaning Liberal-Democrat. One might expect it to take a bullish attitude toward making government more businesslike.
But after examining some ideas, the paper comes to an interesting conclusion: interesting idea, but don’t take it too far:
There is much to quarrel with in the growing movement to learn from the private sector. Businesspeople tend to forget that government always involves the clash of visions and interests. The government of people can never be reduced to the administration of things. Businesspeople also forget that they are an interest group like any other. But it is nevertheless right to involve as many different voices as possible in the discussion. Governments have no choice but to rethink their core operations in the light of tectonic technological changes and escalating social pressures. They need all the help they can get.
Which is the point. We shouldn’t shy away from good ideas that come from business just because they were birthed in the commercial realm, but we should not give them credence in the government context merely because they succeeded in business.