You are the owner of this article.
Letter to the editor

Government is not a business

To the editor: I will admit right off the bat that I am not a politician. I have never run for office or been a government employee. Most of my experience in politics comes from readings on the subject and having lived through 13 presidents, starting with Franklin Roosevelt, 13 governors and numerous mayors.

Over the years, I have heard and read that, “government should be run like a business,” implying that government is wasteful and inefficient while business is not. This is not the case. Those of us who have worked in corporations can recite war stories full of bad decisions and inefficient behavior.

The main difference between government and business is that businesses are organized to make money while government is not. From the preamble to the Constitution, the purpose of government is to “establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Note that there is nothing in this statement about making money. Hence, politicians who attempt to bring business-thinking to government often fail. Because businesses are by their nature competitive, certainly in terms of market share, they often find themselves in a zero-sum game. “The only way for me to win is for you to lose.” Businessmen often consider themselves to be warriors.

But politics in a democracy should be different. The parties should not be at war with one another. Members of Congress should not see themselves as warriors. In a democracy, politics is not a zero-sum game.

The purpose of politics in a democracy is to find compromise, on a situational basis, that aligns with the above preamble. One of George Washington’s major warnings in his farewell address was “to avoid excessive political party spirit and geographical distinctions.” In other words, avoid excess partisanship. He did not state this lightly. His studies of failed democracies and his experience as president showed him that this could be the rock on which a democracy would founder.

We should take this admonition seriously.


The Daily News-Miner encourages residents to make themselves heard through the Opinion pages. Readers' letters and columns also appear online at Contact the editor with questions at or call 459-7574.

Community Perspective

Send Community Perspective submissions by mail (P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks AK 99707) or via email ( Submissions must be 500 to 750 words. Columns are welcome on a wide range of issues and should be well-written and well-researched with attribution of sources. Include a full name, email address, daytime telephone number and headshot photograph suitable for publication (email jpg or tiff files at 150 dpi.) You may also schedule a photo to be taken at the News-Miner office. The News-Miner reserves the right to edit submissions or to reject those of poor quality or taste without consulting the writer.

Letters to the editor

Send letters to the editor by mail (P.O. Box 70710, Fairbanks AK 99707), by fax (907-452-7917) or via email ( Writers are limited to one letter every two weeks (14 days.) All letters must contain no more than 350 words and include a full name (no abbreviation), daytime and evening phone numbers and physical address. (If no phone, then provide a mailing address or email address.) The Daily News-Miner reserves the right to edit or reject letters without consulting the writer.

Submit your news & photos

Let us know what you're seeing and hearing around the community.