The purpose of business

I just read some comments on a NYT piece about Steve Jobs’ taxes. One of the reader commented, as many people like to, that taxes are bad because governments are simply inefficient and run by fools.

To me this implies the assumption that the government is run by “them” some other species of inefficient fools, while business and corporations are run by “us,” an different and efficient species. Anyone who has spent time in a corporation can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing necessarily efficient about them. How many pointless reports have you had to file? How much time have you spent “managing up,” soothing your bosses’ fears and insecurities, trying to read her mind to figure out what she wants?

Business thrives sustainably when it is meeing real human needs and when the human beings who make up the business recognize that business exists to serve human needs, not the other way round.

It is comfortable American “conventional wisdom” that governments are run by fools. For the past 20 years, Americans have been continually electing American governments who promise to do nothing but cut taxes/goverment (not necessarily the same thing as Bush fils has shown). Perhaps this conventional wisdom is widely accepted because the people of America no longer feel that the government represents them (not that it ever has really done a bang-up job of representing all Americans, to say nothing of the people who lived here before it was called America). Perhaps Americans have felt this way for so long that they have simply decided that government is for “fools” because it is too painful to accept what has happened.

Americans seem to feel like people from Jupiter landed here and elected their government while they were busy watching football. But Americans have elected and accepted this government. Government, like business, is nothing more than people and both institutions need our continued co-operation and consent to run and that is is up to people to change them. And this is absolutely possible.