I think it is taken as a given that one of the functions of good government is to regulate businesses and trade. But what if that relationship flows both ways? What if it operates in reverse in the US?
Big Business Steps Up
It struck me as I read a string of recent news that there is a weird reversal of roles going on in the US today. Businesses more and more are stepping in to do the job of government. Not just infrastructure projects like the normal crony capitalism that we associate with winners of elections giving cushy large contracts to donors. That sort of grift has been present in varying degrees for decades. And not the operation and administration of completed projects like the newer more recent Public-Private partnership style deals on toll roads and stadiums where local governments convert fixed public assets into pay-to-use amenities. Something bigger than that.
I am seeing something totally new where businesses are taking the lead in making policy decisions and then implementing them.
Consider the aftermath of the latest high profile school shooting. Let’s see what actions have been taken by business vs elected officials.
Take a look at the following headlines, and tell me how much of this *should* have been handled by elected officials in a legislative body:
- How Banks Could Control Gun Sales if Washington Won’t
- Walmart Joins Dick’s Sporting Goods In Tighter Limits On Gun Sales
- Controversy erupts over credit card payments for guns
The gun control debate in Congress is no longer about guns: Congressional Republicans are looking for the narrowest possible action on gun violence prevention.
- Congress leaves Washington with no action on gun control or school safety
I think the contrast is striking.
Businesses are responding faster and better than the elected representatives on an issue where there is broad public support and a vast amount of frustration from the public for it. And it is not even close.
But it is not just in the area of policy that businesses are more responsive. Try tweeting a comment to any or all of your current elected officials who are supposed to be representing you. (send this article if you like) And tell me if/when you get a response. Then do the same for something like an Amazon order gone wrong. Then compare the responses. My guess is that you will NOT get a response from your elected rep, at least not a personalized one. And you will get one from the business like this:
— Erin Jackson (@ErinJackso) March 10, 2014
What does that mean going forward?
Well, two things I think should be taken away from this.
First, elected officials must be more responsive. Or maybe “become responsive”. if we collectively cannot get our elected representatives to be responsive to the public when there is clear public support for a policy change, then we really do have a problem larger than any one single issue. There are a lot of suggestions that kind of try to “strike at the root” as Lawrence Lessig likes to describe it. Whether that is “term limits”, “ban lobbyists”, “campaign finance reform”, “drain the swamp”, “career politicians”, “deep state” etc.
They all are designed with an end goal of answering the same question. How do we make elected officials responsive to the people?
Second, We should focus any policy change efforts on business and leaders. Common sense says that efforts should be spent in ways that have proven effective. Asking, begging, demanding action from elected officials in the current two party system is clearly NOT an effective way of creating desired change.
When looking at other options, pooling large amounts of money to buy “sit down time” with party officials may not be in your family budget.
So I would suggest this: organized messaging and targeting of business is a citizen’s best approximation of good governance available in America today.
Putting this into action yourself
Look at the current teacher’s strike in Oklahoma. The legislature is more than just avoiding them, they are actively trying to rally support to NOT make the policy changes that people have asked for, begged, for and are even now demanding.
If you are in Oklahoma, try this and let me know the results.
One, target the donor class’ bottom line and let them know. Look at the largest donors to the legislature. And then uses your family budget to cast a vote. Send them a twitter message, and contact them via phone.
Two, look for businesses that can actually do the job in place of the legislature. What is the equivalent of “changing the age limit to purchase guns”, “prevent credit card purchases”, “Threaten to cancel the Superbowl” type actions that a conscientious business owner can do to impact change without the legislature? Can they kick legislators out of their country club? Can they shorten the work week and peoples pay to match the school schedule? Get creative, but think in terms of what will help, and is in their power to do unilaterally. And then ask them to do it.
There are several large educational Companies and NGOs that specialize in providing education projects for 3rd world countries, based on what I see online they may be able to help the classroom situation in parts of Oklahoma.