About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Why don't we outsource the military?
For example, we put our health care in the hands of for-profit companies that make money when we are healthy, and lose it when we get sick. Is it any wonder that we don't have universal health care coverage, perhaps the single most scandalous aspect of American society?
Or take transportation: so-called “public” transportation is in fact often privately run (for example, in New York City), with the result that it isn't a service to citizens who pay taxes, it is a commodity to be sold to those who can afford it. That's a huge difference, because being able to get to work, or receiving medical attention when one is sick (or education throughout one's development years, or heat and electricity at home, and the list could go on a bit), is something that everyone needs, and that benefits society as a whole. Unlike, say, having a cell phone, or the latest designer jeans (a rare example of fashion oxymoron).
Hold it, I can already hear the libertarians amongst us launching into their mantra that “the market knows best” (who the hell is this market guy, anyway, and how does he know so much?), and that publicly (i.e., government) run enterprises are inefficient and always corrupt. But of course there is no empirical evidence whatsoever to support either claim.
Free markets are a mildly efficient way to achieve economic prosperity – and only if regulated by severe anti-trust and anti-fraud legislation. As for inefficiency and corruption, hmm, does the word “Enron” tell you anything? Inefficiency and corruption may simply be an unavoidable consequence of running a large organization, governmental or not. The difference between public and private large organizations, of course, is that the former are under the indirect control of the public and are supposed to function for the public good; private corporations, on the other hand, have the sole declared scope of enriching a small minority of people, the rest of us be damned.
So, I ask again: if private is always better, what are we waiting for before building an army of foreign mercenaries to go fight in Iraq? Market competition might even make it a financially sound investment...