Friday, October 06, 2006

Whose Good?

Thomas Menino, the Mayor of Boston, wants to make wireless Internet available throughout the city. There is discussion about who should run the system. Some cities have opted to work with one company, like Earthlink or Google. Others have given the responsibility to a team of companies.

An editorial in the October 5, 2006 issue of The Boston Globe reported that Mayor Menino wants to take a different approach. He had a task force review the options. One idea it came up with is to put the project in the hands of a nonprofit organization.

Why a nonprofit? According to the editorial, because “its mission would focus on the public good.”

That comment reminded me of the ongoing public demand that nonprofit hospitals show that they are providing enough “community benefit” to justify their tax exemptions. Why is that happening if focusing on the public good is their basic mission as nonprofit organizations? Somebody must think that they are focusing on something else.

If those somebodys are right, what are nonprofit hospitals focused on?

One answer could be the “good” of the physicians on whom they depend for patients. Perhaps there are other answers.

We ought to figure out what the right answer is.

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