A country is not a business


Wandering around Twitter of late, it’s interesting to see who ISN’T supposed to have a political opinion: Actors, artists, singers, authors – they’re all castigated at one time or another for saying what they think about the state of politics in the world.

That argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. I may not agree with my favourite authors when it comes to politics, but I don’t see why they can’t voice their opinion on it. I mean, when something happens, reporters actually go out into the streets and ask regular people what they think – there’s no checking for credentials first. As for the argument that someone who’s famous might influence others, well, so what? My experience of “discussing” politics online is that you can’t change people’s minds about what they think, and I don’t think it’s different if you’re JK Rowling or Sting. If I heard JK was in favour of firing kittens into space from a giant catapult, it would change my opinion of her, not of the act of kitten-flinging.*

So, I think Mr Trump is a bad choice as US President. I’m no expert on politics, but then again, neither is he. I’d make a bad president too, precisely because I’m no expert in politics. Politics is part of the job – hence the title “politician”. Some people said he’d be good because he’s a good businessman. Again, perhaps that might be the case, but I hear he’s NOT such a good businessman. Nobody drinks Trump Vodka, or eats Trump steaks, because those parts of his business failed. His mortgage company folded. He has gone bankrupt several times, and let’s not forget that he had to settle that fraud case over the Trump University thing.

But let’s say he WAS a good businessman. Would that make him a good president? Here’s the point: I don’t think a country is like a business. Some people think it is, but those people are mostly concerned with making money. They think the country ought to have a booming economy above all else, because that’s likely to help their business be a success. In other words, my country is doing well if it’s making me rich.

A company takes seed money, and it produces something, or provides a service. But that’s not what we measure the success by. We measure success of a company by profitability. Imagine you’re running a company making Flimbarts. Someone says “How’s your company doing?” and you say “We made and sold two million Flimbarts last year!” That person will be impressed and likely say “Wow, you must be raking in the cash, huh?”

If you reply “Nope, we’re just breaking even.” they will be less impressed. You’re making lots of Flimbarts, and selling all of them, but you’re not successful, because you’re not turning a big profit.

A country is not a system for producing money. What a country really produces, is citizens. Through their work and taxes, they contribute to the financial stability of the country, but I would argue that it’s the condition of the population that is the measure of the country’s success, not the size of the economy. Look at it this way – if a country wants to attract foreign investment, it could offer cheap labour. The best way to ensure cheap labour is to remove safety restrictions, labour unions and age laws on working. Pay people peanuts to work in factories that aren’t hemmed in with costly safety measures, and it’ll cost foreign firms less to get their products made. More firms will use your country and your country will have a robust economy. But you’ll have miserable citizens, and unless you restrict their education and communication with the outside world, you’ll have rebellion and worker organization and riots.

If you provide education and healthcare and solid infrastructure, you have happy citizens. Healthy citizens. Bright citizens. You get innovations, industry, development. You get education tourism, where people flock to your schools because you’ve invested in them. You are at the forefront of new technologies because your educated citizens are at the forefront of the sciences that develop them. Their energies are focused on the future, not the misery of the present.

An acquaintance of mine on G+ has been patiently explaining to me that Trump is not a bad person. That his policies and executive orders are both legal and sensible. That most of them were Obama’s ideas anyway, or are overturning illegal ideas of Obama’s. He hasn’t answered my question about Bannon being appointed to the National Security Council, or the provable lies that Trump and his administration have been trotting out since…well, since the beginning of his campaign, but still… I feel it’s important to know that there are people who don’t view Trump as the insane choice. There are people out there who go beyond “Let’s give him a chance” and actually TRUST him.

All this American politics is relevant because I heard a conversation the other day at work. Someone was advocating Kevin O’Leary’s bid for the premiership on the grounds that “If America has Trump, we need someone who can deal with him.” From my point of view, that’s a Kindergarten teacher. Someone who can handle tantrums and outrageous fibs should have no trouble getting Donald under control. What we don’t need is another person viewing a country as a money-machine. I never understood what the American Dream was, but I think I see what Canada is – it’s not a place, but a collection of people from many, many different cultures, living and working together for each other and for the next generation.

*As far as I know, JK Rowling has NEVER advocated the flinging of kittens anywhere, by catapult or any other means. And even if she had, how would that change whether or not her writing is any good? I don’t agree with Orson Card’s views on marriage, but I still like “Ender’s Game”. Confusing the writer with the work is a mistake, I feel.

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