Friday, March 14, 2008

The private sector always does it better than government

A few weeks ago, during a debate over whether we should have Canadian troops crossing the border and "help" our citizens in distress, I said that such an agreement was unconstitutional. I am not going to rehash that debate, but a certain poster (who knows who he is) fired back at me by saying that I would also eliminate the Air Force, the air traffic controllers, and NASA, since they also weren't in the United States Constitution. I feel like responding to that now that we have all calmed down (hopefully) and we won't end up insulting each other again. I kept out of that because I didn't want to thread-jack at the time.

First of all, NASA should be privatized. I don't know how much tax dollars go in to NASA, but I'm sure it's a lot of wasted tax payer dollars. Right now, corporations around the world are launching satellites and some are even offering visits in space for a price (technically, the Russians are (were?) from the government). The whole space race nonsense only proved that we could reach the moon. Big deal, there's nothing there and there is nothing to do besides jump around and weigh less than you do here on Earth. The moon has zero natural resources and no way to sustain human life without serious modifications to the moon's (lack of) environment that would outweigh the benefits of living on the moon. In any case, if NASA were privatized, they would have to focus their efforts on offering a service to companies and consumers. Satellite repair comes to mind. Not only that, they would have to find ways to make it all more efficient. Government is always inefficient, with the exception of battlefield tactics. Bureaucrats have no motivation to change because they have the ultimate job security and the public, by and large, never blames government for their troubles.

Secondly, air traffic controllers should be privatized as well. Right now, they are still using radar systems with vacuum tubes (I'm sure larger airports have modernized a bit) and they keep track of flight paths with pieces of paper rather than computer systems. The Canadians have actually surpassed us in this field. They have privatized their air traffic control system and things couldn't be better there in the world of air traffic control.

Thirdly, the air force is a legitimate function of government as described by Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution. "Common Defense" would include an air force as military has taken to the skies now. We do, however, have a kind of privatized system of building or creating defense systems. I see ads for it all the time when going to work because I work close to the Pentagon.

Expanding on the privatization of government services, we could go further. For example, the interstate highways all across our nation are convenient, but what really were the effects of building such a system? For starters, it lead to more use of automobiles, and if you believe in global warming, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (funny how enviro-wackos don't correlate anything). It also lead to a "dependence" on foreign oil. If the interstate highways were never built, what would the transportation of Americans be like today? God could only give us certainty in that regard but I can tell you some aspects. For one thing, McDonalds probably would have never taken off as much as it did. Fast food in general is designed for people on the go, that is, people out and about driving to places. Amtrak probably would still have been a profitable endeavor and we wouldn't be dumping 1 billion tax dollars into it (for the record, I prefer Amtrak to flying when I need to travel to New York City). More people would be paying bus systems to get to work and back and bus systems themselves would most likely be privately owned and more efficient. But that's all speculation to give you an idea of the impact of government when it provides a "service."

Another aspect is the services that are clearly defined that could be privatized and do better anyway. For example, the postal service could be completely privatized and we would see a greater benefit to the American citizens as a whole. If you payed for a mailbox, you would definitely get the service you wanted. You could have a list of senders that you will not accept mail from or a list of approved senders with whom you would only accept mail from and be able to stop all junk mail coming to your mailbox. The private market would find a way to make such a service possible. But right now, every time you open your mailbox, you will most likely find things like credit card offers which you probably don't want (incidentally, you can stop most of these by opting out of pre-screening on your credit reports). Still, how many scams are done via the mail? A private mailing system could put more controls on that. Already we have packages transported via private companies and the overnight service was not available until such things were privatized.

These are all just possibilities and could not be at all what happens when things get privatized. I am an amateur when it comes to economics, but I have a better understanding than the average American, who apparently still believes that government does it better. The reality is that it doesn't. I have one last example to show you why:

My parents have to pay a private company to pick up their trash and haul it to the dump. When I visited relatives in Pittsburgh, they were surprised and shocked to learn that the local government didn't provide such a service. What they didn't realize was that should the trash workers go on strike or they get routinely bad service from the trash collectors, then they would have to go to the local government to address their troubles. And good luck getting a local politician to do anything because you're just one voter. But when my parents had routinely bad service from one trash collector, they just switched companies and all was right with the world again.

The private market meets the demands of all consumers in so many ways, it's hard to really consider why we should allow government to manage and regulate anything short of national defense and law enforcement (and a few other minor things). But government continues to grow citing bogus science or over-hyped fears in most cases to expand its reach. But does anyone really ever ask why government has to grow? In the business world, when you lose a large amount of money, people get fired and budgets get cut. But in government, when a department loses billions (the Pentagon has over 2 trillion in unaccounted for tax dollars in the past several years), the government will send them more money and tell them to not lose it. This is because, unlike the private sector, the government doesn't have to deal with profits and loses.