Has there ever been a legitimately proposed system whereby either the entire government or the executive branch of it was run the way a corporation is usually supposed to - more specifically, with set performance targets, merit pay and performance bonuses to everyone involved? (USA clearly doesn't count since the President and main people at the top get fixed salary no matter what results).

"legitimately proposed" is a wee bit subjective, so I will take anything that is more legitimate than "a random guy ranting on a blog post" type proposals. Ideally something serious enough to merit publishing a book, or an article in scholarly publication, a Wikipedia article; or attracted an organized group of >100 official supporters, outside Facebook.

  • 2
    If anyone can come up with good tag ideas for this, would be much appreciated
    – user4012
    Dec 9, 2012 at 20:37
  • 3
    Not sure if a government should be run like a corporation. A corporation has an overarching goal in satisfying the needs and demands of its board, and its own people are typically an unfortunate baggage that they must carry along. I would say the closest thing to what you are describing is probably China.
    – user117
    Dec 10, 2012 at 2:45
  • 1
    @maple_shaft - This question does not ask about "should" :) Also, I was not aware that China pays the Presidium based on how well the country achieves specific goals
    – user4012
    Dec 10, 2012 at 14:59
  • 3
    Most gangs would qualify - both as a local government and as a corporate based entity. Dec 10, 2012 at 19:29
  • 1
    The flaw in the concept is assuming that merit pay is directly correlated to the happiness of the recipient of the product and/or services. While sometimes true in private industry, it's by no means universally true. The other flaw is assuming that workers are primarily motivated by financial payments. Again, sometimes true, but by no means universal. As such, a government run like a corporation tends to be very much a corporation, rather than a government.
    – user1530
    Mar 4, 2013 at 16:09

3 Answers 3


There were governments run by corporations - not "like corporations" but by real ones. One of the examples is the corporate rule in India. Another example being Rhodesia.

  • 3
    Were those governments run on corporate principles? There's a difference between government doing the bidding of some external corporation but operating like a typical government aside from that, and government's internal workings working the way corporations do.
    – user4012
    Apr 8, 2013 at 19:54
  • 3
    @DVK the aim of the Company was to maximize revenue. All the military, police and judges were direct employees of the company (rather than of a government). The company exercised direct control over the territory and had the right to collect taxes and use capital punishment. The regional management was directly responsible before the Board of Directors.
    – Anixx
    Apr 9, 2013 at 3:12
  • @DavidBlomstrom I think you mean the precursor to the United States
    – Caleth
    Aug 27, 2021 at 15:41

To a degree, most western democracies are run like a corporation. They have a board of directors (congress or parliament), and a CEO (president or prime minister). The CEO sets the direction, and the board either approves or disapproves by approving or disapproving the budget required.

Just like a corporation, they are beholden to the shareholders - the voters. True that it's not practical for most of us to sell our stock in our host nation, and buy stock in another nation, so the penalty for something really bad isn't as direct. Nor can the shareholders just call an immediate vote, but they do vote - every two to four years.

Why aren't the western democracies setting and meeting performance goals? Probably because the stockholders aren't telling them to, or voting them out when they don't. Ever wonder how once strong corporations can fall? Usually, a lame CEO and board, content to keep the ship afloat and bilk it with their golden parachutes. The stockholders should have voted them out a long time ago, but they weren't really paying attention - just like a lot of voters are doing today.

In the end, it is up to us, the voters, to get a better government. If you are dissatisfied with your government, then run for office. If you're fed up with something, chances are that a lot of other people are fed up with the same issue, too.

  • It is true that big money has undue influence on the US government. Look at all the big money flooding the last presidential election... especially true of the democrats, who once had the reputation of resisting that sort of thing. Still... it comes down to a vote. The current sorry state, and the sorry excuses for presidential candidates in 2016, show a lack of voter interest. About the one good thing that came out of the Trump victory was a sign that big money doesn't always sway an election. Legislators respond to votes. If the electorate is disinterested, then they respond to money.
    – tj1000
    Jun 7, 2017 at 13:09

Purely anecdotal, but having worked in state government before, we had "set performance targets, merit pay and performance bonuses" just like anywhere else. The day-to-day operations weren't particularly any different than any corporate job I've ever held. Remember, in terms of staffing people--at least in the US--government agencies have to compete with private entities for the same workers.

That said 'run like a corporation' is a much broader question, so I don't know if you were thinking broader than the examples you gave.

If the question is more specific, and that you are specifically asking at the 'CEO level', I don't know of any legitimate proposals. The challenge there is that in the corporate world, CEO pay is typically tied to overall profits (directly or indirectly) which isn't a measurement available in government. However, on a smaller scale, I do believe there are examples where some pay may be witheld until certain achievements are accomplished. I'm thinking along the lines of School Superintendant recruiting where part of the benefits package would be tied to some performance measurement. Googling 'School Superintendant Bonus' shows lots of examples: https://www.google.com/search?q=school+superintendant+bonuse

  • 2
    Yes, this was pretty much what I had in mind but including the higher-ups (e.g. governor, mayor, el prezidente etc...)
    – user4012
    Apr 8, 2013 at 19:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .