I picked up a book at the dollar store the other day by George Lakoff, “The Political Mind.” In it I found a succinct description of the difference between the public and private sector:
Protection and empowerment are part of the moral mission of government. That is why government budgets are moral documents. Government is fundamentally different from business. Lakoff says the first responsibility of a business is to make money.
The appropriateness of Lakoff’s distinction between the public and private world came to roost recently in the September issue of Vanity Fair. Mark Gross in “Enter the Cyber-Dragon,” exposes a discussion between the Chief Financial Officer of a large corporation and his Chief Intelligence Officer. They are discussing the cost of defending their vital information against cyber attacks:
CFO: “What’s the worst that can happen if we don’t fix any of these?
CIO: We’re not regulated or audited, so there won’t be any fines.
CFO: … [Then] the topic is closed.”
(“Enter the Cyber-Dragon” by Mark Gross. “Vanity Fair,” Sept. 2011)
Apparently, the CFO of a company would rather lose the organization’s intellectual property than pay to protect it.
I thought about his decision in relationship to whether or not health care is a service like fire and police or a commodity to be provided by private insurance. If protecting the bottom line of a company has higher priority than saving its intellectual property, what kind of decision would the CFO of a health insurance company make if a client needed an expensive operation?