The New York Times has a very interesting and reasonably fair article up about Sandy Springs, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb (pop.94,000) which has contracted out virtually every public service this side of the police and fire departments –
“To grasp how unusual this is, consider what Sandy Springs does not have. It does not have a fleet of vehicles for road repair, or a yard where the fleet is parked. It does not have long-term debt. It has no pension obligations. It does not have a city hall, for that matter, if your idea of a city hall is a building owned by the city. Sandy Springs rents.”
Residents of Sandy Springs seem very pleased with the way everything has worked out, which suggests that perhaps more local governments should consider a similar path. Naturally, there are those who think ‘we’ should consider whether we’re going to permit that –
“The prospect of more Sandy Springs-style incorporations concerns people like Evan McKenzie, author of “Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government.” He worries that rich enclaves may decide to become gated communities writ large, walling themselves off from areas that are economically distressed.
“You could get into a ‘two Americas’ scenario here,” he says. “If we allow the more affluent to institutionally isolate themselves, then the poor are supposed to do — what? They’re supposed to have all the poverty and all the social problems and deal with them?”
I can’t say I really understand McKenzie’s worry. It seems to me that a poor area would benefit even more so from this kind of contracting out than a rich area. Provided it is executed properly, a community would realize better services at lower costs, thus increasing the desirability of the neighbourhood. Businesses and the better-off would see good value, and their investments would spur further improvements. The next thing you know, you’ve got a virtuous cycle going on. There are legitimate concerns, and I’ll discuss them in the next day or so, but if you share McKenzie’s anxieties, you can rest easy. They won’t be happening.
Many times I come across arguments against health care privatization in which one is advised to ‘just look at the US!’ The fact is, though, rather than being a free-market system, American health care and health insurance provision is regulated to within an inch of its life. Comparing the US and Canadian systems has only served to strengthen my conviction that, other than enforcing prohibitions against the use of force and fraud, government should withdraw from every aspect of the health care market. This graphic (courtesy of the LA Times) gives us some inkling of the tremendous savings that may become available once the state is no longer interjecting itself between the health care consumer and the health care provider.
Your happy article on the reintroduction of western bluebirds (My nest or yours? May 11) was marred by the perpetuation of some myths concerning the disappearance of these beauties from our locality. Before blaming competition from introduced species, or loss of habitat, it is wise to consider why such phenomena do nothing to reduce the population of zebra finches, turkeys, budgies, or chickens. It takes only a moment to realize that the difference resides in who controls the property rights over these animals.
Amongst birds that can be privately owned and traded, populations flourish. But where collective ownership is the rule and trade is prohibited, reliance on government stewardship has consistently led to disaster. It is in the best interests of neither wildlife nor humanity to place the responsibility for bluebirds, marmots, or any other vulnerable creature into the hands of agents who lack both the knowledge and the incentives to optimally manage them. The results speak for themselves.
Although libertarians have long made the case for private provision of services currently supplied to an overwhelming degree by government (including schools, roads, policing, and courts), even the staunchest may hesitate at the notion of depending on the private sector for national defence. Certainly the mechanics of such an endeavour would be formidable. Still, consider the video above, via Wired –
“The Army deployed to Marzak in January. Anticipating the need to supply it and other remote locations, in October the Army hired a boutique resupply company built around a single, 50-year-old DeHavilland Caribou and 15 civilian pilots, staff and ground crew. The Caribou and its crews, based at Bagram airfield near Kabul, are asked to do things most military airlifters cannot: Fly low and fast to drop small loads of critical supplies with pinpoint accuracy…
… The secret to its success is the skill of the flight crews, the mechanics’ meticulous maintenance of the 1960s-vintage Caribou and upgrades to the rugged plane’s engines that give it extra oomph. “It makes for a perfect LCLA airdrop platform,” the source tells Danger Room…
…With no military planes to assume the low-altitude resupply duty, highly skilled civilians and their ancient but upgraded Caribou will likely remain a unique lifeline for isolated troops. The Caribou’s dramatic airdrops should be a regular sight in the war’s waning years.”
Bonus fun fact: The de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou (designated by the United States military as the CV-2 and later C-7 Caribou) is a Canadian-designed and produced specialized cargo aircraft with short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. (Emphasis mine)
Doug Smith, an investigative journalist from Fox 13 in Tampa, Florida, reports that an Ohio man was stripped, masked, restrained, and pepper-sprayed by Lee County police until he died –
“The District 21 Medical Examiner ruled his death was a homicide because he had been restrained and sprayed with pepper sprayed by law enforcement officers. But to this day, nobody has ever been charged with a crime, and the Lee County State Attorney cleared the sheriff’s office of any wrong doing.”
The jury is, almost literally, still out on this, but I have read of so many similar incidents that whenever there is any question as to whether or not the police have committed an injustice I can no longer give them the benefit of the doubt. Policing should be one of our most honoured and honourable professions, but so long as the constabulary answers directly to the state rather than the citizen, performance and respectability will continue to decline.
Many people consider government regulation necessary to to protect consumers from foods that are unsafe because of insufficient sanitation, poor handling, mislabeling, and so on, but the fact is that in a free marketplace there is vigorous competition between suppliers to provide every consumer with goods that are not only safe and healthy but also priced to give desired value. Suppliers who fail to do so are crushed in both the market and in the courts. But don’t take my word for it! Just ask the Canadian Food Inspection Agency –
“Most recalls in Canada are voluntary, which means that the recalls are initiated and carried out by the manufacturer, importer, distributor or retailer responsible. The CFIA works with the firm to ensure the effectiveness of the recall. However, in the event that a company is unable, or refuses, to voluntarily recall a product, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has the power to order a mandatory recall for products that pose a health risk.”
Even the government acknowledges that it is really the market that protects us. And as to those items that are not voluntarily recalled despite the fact that the government declares they “pose a health risk”? What do you want to bet that those are products that are not actually dangerous, but are subject to some popular hysteria that makes recalling them politically expedient?
“A few years ago, you published an article on local fishing spots in the lower mainland of BC. One of the lakes you mentioned was Hatzic Lake, just east of Mission City, and indicated that it was noted for its large number and size of black crappies. The following spring and every year since (and all year long) certain people have fished the lake from early morning until late in the evening and kept everything they caught. There are now few fish left in the lake.
There are no plans to restock Hatzic Lake for various reasons and to see a good spot totally ruined by a small group is rather disheartening. Please don’t tell where the good areas are – let people find them on their own and possibly we will be able to keep some of the good areas good for a little longer.”
In response, here is a letter I have written to the Outdoor Edge –
“I don’t do a lot of fishing, but I know from experience there are few things as exciting in a person’s life as catching that first fish. Because of that, I am especially fond of places where catching a fish isn’t too, too difficult for a novice, and like the author of the above letter, my heart aches over the loss of such spots. However, the writer does Outdoor Edge a disservice by holding the magazine responsible for this particular tragedy. The overfishing of Hatzic Lake is clearly yet another failure of government stewardship. Had the lake been privately owned and the owners permitted to profit from it, black crappie would continue to provide exciting sport for many, rather than briefly filling the freezers of a selfish few. So long as resources are left in the commons to be managed by politicians driven principally by their pursuit of office, such incidents will occur over, and over, and over again.”