What conflicts may arise between business and the government ?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It is inevitable for conflict to arise between government and business because each has a different agenda and goals. The goal of government, at least theoretically, is to ensure the welfare of its citizenry, and all of its efforts are supposed to be aimed at that goal. The goal of a business is to make a profit, and all of its behaviors and activities are directed toward that goal.

In its efforts to make a profit, a business can and sometimes does behave in ways that are harmful to people.  For example, a business may offer a product that is unsafe, or a business may pollute the environment as it manufactures its product or mines a resource.  A business may misrepresent its product in its advertising. A business may create a work environment that is unsafe for its workers or that is discriminatory towards some of its employees.  Without government, there is nothing to stop any business from behaving in any of these ways.

Government is intended to protect the entire citizenry, including consumers, employees, and anyone else who could be harmed by the actions of business. It does so through legislation, regulation, and enforcement.  This creates difficulties for businesses, who now must spend more money to make products safer, to manufacture with less pollution, or to excavate in ways that protect the environment better.  Businesses must spend money to make their work environments safer, and they must use their resources to ensure a non-discriminatory work environment. This means that businesses' profits are diminished, and since their aim is maximizing profitability, there is always a conflict between what the government requires and what businesses want to do or not do. 

This conflict has become highly politicized in recent years, with those arguing that all government regulation is bad for the economy because it makes it more difficult to be in business and harms the profitability that is supposed to help the economy grow and those arguing that unregulated business practices are a danger to us all, a danger that ultimately harms us and the economy. Many people take extreme positions on this issue, and as with all extremes, both sides could probably find some consensus, agreeing that some regulation is necessary but that there is such a thing as too much regulation.  Sadly, the fact that they could find a middle ground does not mean they will. 

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