, Gloucester, MA

Letters/My View

January 9, 2013

Letter: Don't fall for anti-government myths

To the editor:

The idea that government can’t do anything right and private industry can’t do anything wrong is a myth promoted by private industry.

Private health care insurers, for example, are much less efficient than Medicare. Health care in America costs more than $1 trillion more than it would with a National Health Care System as cost-effective as that in England and other countries. A contributing factor is the compensation in private industry. The CEO of UnitedHealth Group makes more than $48 million, more than 100 times as much as the highest paid government employee, the President of the United States.

Waste is rampant in many corporations, just as in many government operations. One corporation for which I worked went on an acquisition binge. Later, it had to hire a new CEO to divest the company of 32 businesses it had bought. Several firms of which I became CEO or director had been grossly over-staffed. Cutting the head count not only saved money, but improved performance. Something similar had to be done at General Motors, which was saved from bankruptcy only by a government bailout.

Like waste, corruption is not limited to government. At one management conference I attended, an executive from IBM was openly recruiting co-conspirators with whom to exchange inside information.

His objective was to use it to make illicit gains on the stock market without being caught.

Rather than dismissing the possibility of government doing anything well, we would do much better to insist on improving government operations in those areas in which collective action is the best way to get the job done, such as defense, courts, highways, police protection, and, yes, health care.


Gloucester and Exeter, N.H.

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