FREE MARKETS ARE BETTER
The editor of this book challenged me on this, saying, “How can you draw such distinctions between government and private enterprise? Democracy is a sort of free market. We choose representatives and get exactly what we ask for. Isn’t that just as good?” No, because under private enterprise, we get to vote more often, and for more things. Free-market competition demands competitors adjust constantly (millions of changes a day, if not per second) if they are to keep pleasing (winning the votes of) customers.
Democracy is a kind of market, but a horribly slow and clumsy one. We elect only once every several years, and we don’t choose representatives under conditions of open competition. The political class has so rigged the system that 98 percent of congressional incumbents are reelected. Now that incumbents have also enacted contribution limits, it’s even harder to raise enough money to mount a challenge.
More important, politics is a package deal; government responds to collective choice, usually the wishes of a majority. You get all of Gore’s promises, or all of Bush’s promises. But you can choose between 20/20 and a dozen other newsmagazines on TV. There are many different restaurants, with many different combinations of cuisine, quality, and price. Imagine that you bought food like you vote for president. You get two choices, donkey meat and elephant meat (every now and then, another choice is available in certain states, where the food’s producers solicited enough signatures on a petition to get into the grocery store). Every four years, everybody gets together and votes for donkey or elephant meat. No matter how you vote, you have to eat what the majority picks.
When I go to the grocery store in a reasonably free market, I can pick elephant and you can pick donkey or we can make entirely different choices. We don’t have to make our decision together, and we are not bound by each other’s decisions. The constant competition among millions of us making millions of different choices forces entrepreneurs to give us better choices.
This is why government can never do anything as well as the private sector. Government means one-size-fits-all rules that are hard to customize or change. If government does something clever, its rigidities eventually make it lose ground. Failing may take a while; in the Soviet Union it took 70 years. But government services will eventually decay. Whether it’s public schools, public toilets, the post office, or the TSA doesn’t matter; government cannot do it as well.
The above is a page from John Stossel's book, Give Me a Break : How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.... For more excerpts, see http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...+break&x=0&y=0
Why should government run anything (like National Flood Insurance, the war on drugs, farm subsidies, mass transit, highway systems, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Parks Department, water supply and sanitation, etc.) that private enterprise can do better, often for anywhere between 10% and 70% of the cost?