Amid all the confusion of the last year or so you can't have missed the increasing popularity of suggesting that the public sector (i.e. things owned in common by you and me, delivering essential services for you and me) has got to be reduced in size and importance (relative to the private sector – the stuff that is owned by a relatively small number of people and delivering largely non-essential services to you and me)
Of course, running huge fiscal deficits (having more of this stuff around than you can pay for or plan to pay for) is not something that is such a good idea (depending where you are in the cycle).
All of which has led to calls for a debate about the public sector: what is it for? Which services should it provide and which should it leave to Social Enterprise and the market? More importantly, how should it be funded and who should pay how much for it?
But there's precious little discussion of what business is for? Who does it serve and how? How should we evaluate business? Merely in terms of shareholder value as we have done for the last couple of decades? Or are there (as I and some others have been arguing for some time) some other things that businesses should be doing?
Aside from the late conversion to the Purpose Idea in US marketing writers – there's precious little public debate on what business is for, either here or in the US. It seems to be taken as read that private enterprise – being the opposite of the public (or commonly owned) sector – is ok because its motives are purely financial/venal (delete as inappropriate).
cartoon (above) is a great start in this conversation – if one of the other main points of business is it's social functions (for its employees, customers and society at large) then maybe we ought to start putting a number of these (other) dimensions. Being (economically) efficient (i.e. employing lots of people) if that serves other goals (e.g. serving a community).
Not least because if we don't do so then the existing kinds of number (sales, proftis, shareholder value and senior management's reward programmes which are based on these) will continue to dominate and distort the private sector further.
What we need is a rethinking of both business and the private sector – not re-adjustment of the share.
Anyone got a suggestion as to where to start?
NB UPDATED 17th June