Going with the point from the end of my Obama rant:

After all, lets say you had to put Romney or Obama in charge of Apple or just friggin’ Walmart! Would you even trust them to do a good job managing all the different services of any one of those companies, raising profits, making people’s lives better and providing the vision it needs to do better in the world tomorrow? No? Of course, not! Because they aren’t qualified, and its too big for them!

The first thing to understand is that the government really is like a company. It provides services in return for payment (taxes). The government unlike most companies however, has far too many responsibilities and areas where it should ideally be doing a good job. Unfortunately, few of the people in charge of those responsibilities are the kinds of people who can make sure that those services are provided well and for cheap (so that we have to pay less taxes while still getting as much or more stuff)

Businesses in general are more accountable in that they know they need to make money. Without money they can’t pay their people, they can’t pay for the services they themselves depend on, they can’t build new branches to try to make more money. Without the right kinds of investments and more profit, they can never have enough money to make the lives of their owners, shareholders and employees better.

Well Walmart might not make their average employee’s life great, but as they expand, they create more jobs so that people who might not otherwise have a job, have one. That’s not a small service to perform. If they weren’t profitable, they wouldn’t be able to create more jobs.

Anyway, lets assume that like our country, Walmart was just not making a profit, but still had a decent amount of money and credit left. What could it do if it wanted to not have to fire people as well as become profitable again?

First, define goals clearly:

  1. Survive – this is paramount. The company can’t help anyone if its dead.
  2. Become leaner – save money where you can so you have more capital to work with. You can’t force people to buy your stuff, but you can cut extra expenses.
  3. Trim the fat – if a store is just never going to be profitable, stop spending money on a lost cause. Bad times are times for decisiveness.
  4. Find more ways to make money and reduce costs – research, negotiate better deals, find better partners.
  5. Make better use of people and avoid losing jobs or hurting morale in these hard times – as opposed to pushing the unemployment burden on government. Retrain and relocate people who are willing to move (Especially the more dedicated and capable ones). And make sure that you have the best people providing leadership to all the key areas. Move the more talented people to be in charge of things that are more important for success.

Actually that sounds more like a Japanese company, where both the leaders and the workers are more loyal to each other. But anyway. Stating the goals is good because you have to know your priorities and because putting it out there makes you think it through and see if there are any obvious errors in your assumptions.

After defining goals, you generally need to define measures of success. Like: Cut costs by 35% in one year across all of xxx departments. What good does this do? It also helps you set milestones and see if things are going according to plan so that you can take action before its too late. If six months have gone by and you’ve only cut 5% costs, you know your approach was wrong and you’re probably not going to meet your objectives and its time for a change. Better to know that you acted like an idiot while you still have time to make things better.

The other and often more important benefit of defining goals: It lets you and others see what you’re thinking and thus helps avoid stupidity. To illustrate that point, lets take the example of using happiness or lack of pain to determine the value of your life. Many a drug addict has run himself into the ground by using that incomplete measure of what constitutes a good life. Let that be a lesson:

Only by having the right priorities and by correctly defining what constitutes success can success be achieved.”

… More on how to apply above principles to saving the country at a later date perhaps. But ultimately, like a business, the country needs to make more money in a sustainable fashion or we’re all screwed. That requires improved efficiency, greater creativity, and sacrifice where necessary. So that the country can be healthy again. If the country has more money, it can afford to create better education, better environment, safer lives – but it all boils down to money. We have to make the country work better for it to make people’s lives better.