the intersection of government & business

Friday 9 January, 2009

I caught this article by David Greising in the Chicago Tribune Obama administration has chance to redefine commerce secretary post Quotes from former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley add most of the meat of the story, but begs the question to me, “How much should government & business intersect?”  Bill Daley is 1 of the best examples of 1 who has bounced back & forth between business & government, which never ceases to amaze me, because I think success in each requires different sets of skills.  A turnaround artist friend of mine begs to differ by saying, “When you get high up in organizations, all your success depends on politics.”  Although he’s been dealt a very difficult hand, I’m surprised Hank Paulson hasn’t been viewed as being more successful.

Only in America would anyone refer to a cabinet level position as “U.S. industry’s chief salesman abroad.”  However, the Department of Commerce is the 1 department where government plays a role in looking out for the interests of business.  I haven’t seen the job description, but I agree with Daley that the position & department could use an overhaul.  I wonder how effective it could become if it were led by a dynamic visionary leader who could cut through the bureaucracy to deliver results for businesses rather than preserving their own turf as so many bureaucrats do.  When working @ the Canadian consulate, I tried to take a business approach & network on behalf of Canadian firms.  The response from Ottawa was not that we serve our client businesses, rather serve the bureaucrats in Ottawa.  Lots of other governments are much more aggressive in promoting their businesses, & to compete today, we need to do more of that too.

Regardless, Industry Canada is thought of as a valuable resource to many in Canada.  I don’t know of many parts of government that are thought of that way in the U.S.  Part of the reason for that is most all the rest of the world gets better people going into government.  The thought here is, if you’re good, go into business so you can earn more $.  The rest of the world isn’t as greedy as we are & incomes are nearly as dispersed as they are in the U.S. so there is something to be said for going for the money.

As 1 who’s worked in both government & business, although I increasingly realize politics crosses with economics more & more, government workers should refrain from telling owners how to run their businesses while business owners should elect leaders who look out for everybody’s interests instead of just their own.  Separate but equal works for me.


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