How Countries Are Different from Companies

November 10, 2012

I was in a meeting a couple of days ago when a person said, “Google is like a country.” I did not say anything. Countries are different from companies, but US companies often forget this fact.

How do I know?

Navigate to “Chinese Government Blocks Google.com, Gmail, Google+, Maps, Docs, Analytics, Drive, more [Update: Unblocked]”. A country can turn off and turn off access to certain services without fiddling around or doing any explaining.

In my experience, if a company wants to do business in a country different from one’s “home” nation state, the rules may be different. Money, power, and influence may help check some of the vagaries of a government. But it is better to solve the problem rather than assuming a country is easily cowed by a company.

Countries have some fascinating capabilities. I am thinking of financial sanctions, police powers, and red tape that would make one of Napoleon’s bureaucrats envious.

Stephen E Arnold, November 10, 2012

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