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Flint Richard Snyder
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The inevitable cost of running government like a business

What happens when the public are fooled into believing that a businessman would make a better political leader than, say, someone who understands public service?

Well, in the shape of Donald Trump, the entire world may find out come November.  But we don’t have to wait to see if Trump becomes President to get an insight into what may be in store.  We already have an example in the shape of multi-million dollar businessman and Michigan governor Rick Snyder, whose pledge to run the state like a business reached its predictable climax with the mass poisoning of more than 9,000 children.

One of the reasons why people demand that their governments implement and enforce regulations is that businesses, left to their own devices, will always put profit before the public interest.  So when a businessman like Snyder is put in charge of, say, ensuring that the population of Flint, Michigan, have access to clean drinking water, it should come as no surprise that he would consider saving money by switching to cheaper – and as it turns out heavily polluted– water from the nearby river.

“For decades, the once-thriving industrial city bought its water from Detroit. It was piped from Lake Huron, with anti-corrosion chemicals added along the way. But in early 2014, with the city under the control of an emergency manager appointed by Snyder, officials switched to Flint River water in a bid to save money.”

As  Lenny Bernstein and Joby Warrick, writing in the Washington Post point out, Snyder’s way of doing business involved removing the normal checks and balances of government in order to get things done:

“Aside from the responsibility that comes with leading the state bureaucracy that allowed the water contamination to occur, Snyder’s culpability stems from his appointment of “emergency managers” for Flint and several other troubled cities. With authority that superseded the power of elected city officials, the managers made controversial decisions in the name of cutting costs.”

Snyder has been forced to give evidence before a U.S. House Oversight Committee, and this could result in his being removed from office.  However, for parents in Flint even a lengthy spell in jail will barely begin to redress the harm that has been done.  For the rest of us, there is a broader lesson – red tape may seem obstructive and bureaucratic, and it may appear to interfere with business… but we put there for a reason!

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