Private money vs public money

When I worked in the private sector money was easier to come by, or at least it seemed to be so.  I never used to worry about expenses as such.  If I needed to buy some petrol I would stop at the nearest service station. Hang the price.  If I wanted to meet up with someone, a fully paid lunch was always an option.  When I was away on business it was never my pocket I put my hand in.

When times were tight we would pull our horns in but they were never cut off.  We just spent a little less noticeably.

I then joined the public sector and there, things are very different.  Spending money on anything that is a frivolity is deeply frowned upon.  I buy my own petrol, I pay for my own lunch and if I am away I get a small allowance to pay for food.  I always buy my own alcohol and never accept an offer of hospitality from anyone, third party or not.

The difference is that I am spending public money.  Your money.  Money placed at my disposal for the benefit of the public.  How could I possibly let them down?

Now I am happy with this position.  I understand it clearly.  There is a difference between public and private money, but is it as clear cut as I am led to believe?

Public money comes through taxation in its many guises.  You could argue that without private money there would be no public money but for me this is too simplistic an argument.  Both sectors need each other.  For public money to be created though, there is a strong need for companies to return profits which can be taxed.  Profitability comes about by making more money than it costs to run the business.  Keeping costs in check is a vital component of running any successful and profitable business.

My argument goes, therefore, that a wayward approach to expenses in a private company could in some way lead to the lowering of profits and so the ultimate tax take.  There is a direct link between the profligacy of private sector employees and the public purse.  A frivolous approach to the management of expenses is just as bad in a private company as in a public authority.  Or am I just kidding myself?

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