How about roads? Let’s start with that.
You see, a couple weeks ago, I received an email from a loyal reader: Name one thing government does better than the private sector. Just one. I’m waiting. Privatization is always more efficient. Or something like that; I’m paraphrasing. The reader might have underlined always and written in all caps with exclamation points. I don’t remember.
So let’s begin with roads. After all, it probably would not be a good idea to privatize roads. If our neighbor paved a street through their property, we would not be too happy about it. If an Oregon resident decided to build a bridge and indiscriminately hook it up with Columbia Street in Vancouver, it might cause some problems. If competing private companies started paving roads with no concern for how they mesh with streets built by other companies, well, it would not be very efficient. Dead ends don’t help traffic flow.
Yes, it is safe to say the planning and construction of roads is more efficient when handled by a governing body. Yet that does not prevent the absurd trope that private industry is inherently better than government.
In some cases, this is true. That is why governments do not produce basketball shoes or computers or shampoo. But there are, indeed, many things that government does more efficiently than the private sector.
Take public health. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis — now March of Dimes — was founded by the Roosevelt administration in 1938 and later funded research by Jonas Salk. By 1955, that research resulted in a polio vaccine that has nearly eradicated the disease. The collective economic power of government and the ability to focus that power on a specific goal is essential to public health.