Tag Archives: Carrier

Why We Don’t Negotiate with Terrorists

The principle that government does not negotiate with terrorists is a longstanding American policy, endorsed (to date, at least) by foreign policy experts of both parties. The reasons are–or should be–obvious: when you reward an activity, you encourage it.

If kidnapping our diplomats or other citizens proves profitable, more kidnappings will occur.

Of course, if you are the spouse or loved one of the person being held hostage, you are likely to have a somewhat different perspective. Which brings me to the recent announcement–made with much fanfare–about Carrier Corporation’s decision to keep a thousand of its employees in Indiana, rather than moving their jobs to Mexico. Affected employees are undoubtedly (and understandably) euphoric.

Details thus far have been sketchy, but it appears that Indiana will provide financial “incentives” to keep the company here for the next few years. Since federal government contracts currently generate $6 billion dollars annually forĀ Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, it is likely that promises about that contracting relationship sweetened the deal.( A spokesperson for Trump hinted that the government might relax regulations United Technologies found “onerous.”)

As one economist tweeted, “Every savvy CEO will now threaten to ship jobs to Mexico, and demand a payment to stay. Great economic policy.”

Trump’s Carrier “accomplishment” is Exhibit A in what would likely be a long list of “teachable moments” if Trump were teachable. The lesson is: deals that make perfect sense in the private business sector can be invitations to disaster in the public sector.

I learned that lesson when I served as Indianapolis’ Corporation Counsel. Cities get sued with some regularity; a car goes in a ditch and the driver blames the design of the road; a building inspector tags a property and the owner disputes the violation; a homeowner objects to a sewer assessment, or a rezoning..the list is endless.

In the business world, it often makes fiscal sense to settle a suspicious “slip and fall” case, for example–especially when the amount at issue is much less than the cost of litigating the matter. If a City did that–if it “bought off” relatively small claims–it would be tantamount to hanging a sign out that said “Come sue us–we’re patsies.” Plaintiffs and their lawyers know that, unlike many private defendants, government entities have money; if all they had to do was file a lawsuit, if they didn’t have to risk going to trial, it would be open season.

So–unless the City was clearly in the wrong– we litigated them all, large or small.

Thanks to Americans’ ignorance of the significant differences between the public and private sectors, there’s a widespread and profoundly naive belief that anyone can “do” government, that public sector experience and/or specialized skills are unnecessary.

I wonder how many terrorists Trump and his cabinet of inexperienced newcomers will negotiate with–and what it will cost us taxpayers– before they figure it out…