In his speech yesterday, Obama made the case against liberalism and big government. And, in the process, made the case against Democrat’s platform. In apologizing he made two very accurate statements.
He said that government isn’t efficient. He’s absolutely correct. It’s not. It never will be. That’s the nature of the beast. This is not to say that we shouldn’t do all that we can to make it efficient and function better, but at the same time we also have to know that government will often be quite inefficient. It always costs considerably more for the government to do something and the result is often not as good as that produced by the private sector.
He said that he is not perfect. Correct again. I don’t say this in a mean way though. None of us is perfect. We all make mistakes. For every single person who’s ever held the office of President of the United States we can likely find a dozen mistakes each has made that we can all agree on.
Both of these also apply to the private sector. Private businesses can also be inefficient and their leaders imperfect. There are two key differences though; they are usually considerably less inefficient and imperfect than government, and the impact of their mistakes is massively less than with government.
Competition and Perfection
Competition is good. Competition drives us to do our very best. Competition drives companies to produce better and more desirable products and to focus like a laser on avoiding mistakes. Competition drives us to overcome our imperfections.
Competition is what drives Chevy and Toyota and Apple and Samsung. They still make mistakes and their leaders are still imperfect. But, they are driven to be as perfect as possible. How many government programs have produced the products of these companies or the medical breakthroughs we so desire?
Our Federal Government doesn’t feel that. There is no competition. They are driven only by altruism, and that’s in short supply. They don’t worry too much about screwing up. They’re very unlikely to get fired and they’ll likely not go out of business (until perhaps, China calls in our debts).
State and local governments do feel some very minimal competition. And this is good. They know that they are compared to other states and that people do have some options.
None of this is necessarily a knock on government employees. I know many very good, hard working, successful government employees. It’s simply the nature of the beast though. Government drives complacency.
Limited Impact and Better Options
The biggest of these differences though is limited impact and better options. When Obamacare falters it harms an entire nation. A mistake by the President, regardless of party or ideology, impacts us all.
If United Healthcare makes a mistake, it impacts only a fraction of our population. The impact is much more limited. And when a private company makes a mistake we almost always have other options.
If you don’t like your insurance, you can switch to another insurance company.
If Microsoft screws up you can go to Apple. If Apple screws up you can buy an Android.
If your state government screws up, you can move to another state. Granted, this isn’t as easy as switching phones, but many people do it.
But with the federal government there are no other viable options. You’re stuck.
Imagine if the government decided that only the government would be allowed to build and sell cars. No more private companies. The result is that you’re limited only to Chryslers. No more Toyota’s, Nissan’s, Fords, Kia’s, or Teslas. What would happen to quality?
Detroit’s leaders have been imperfect and made some bad decisions. But their tanking has really had very limited impact on us as a nation. Imagine of those same mistakes were made by those running our federal government.
Central programs like Obamacare are fraught with the potential for devastation, by their very nature of having all of our eggs in one basket. This, regardless of who’s running things. While I might think that a libertarian or conservative running Obamacare might be better than Kathleen Sebelius. It really won’t make that much difference. Regardless of who’s running it, it will fail compared to the private sector.
In the end, competition, limited impact, and a variety of options are good.