What Government Services To Provide & How To Pay (Part 1)

This is an excerpt from a piece written by Tom Campenni.  You can read the entire piece on TomCampenni.com.  Editing and italics provided by Exec. Dir. MCTA

For the most part, governmental entities do not care about market forces or what services to provide based on a profit motive. In the private sector, a business decides that a niche exists in the market and then will produce a service or product in order to fill that niche.

The public sector or government should provide services that the private sector is incapable of providing. The private sector may be incapable because the service is not economically viable but is still very necessary to society.

But, while the private sector cannot effectively provide,  for example, police services, it does a great job at running amusement parks. In fact, is there anyone that does that better than Disney? We can then agree that roller coasters should be left to the private sector.

Then what about Martin County’s Sailfish Water Park? Why is the public asked to subsidize this supposed public necessity? If there is enough of a desire by the public to have this amusement park, wouldn’t the private sector have built it? More importantly, a private operator would need to make a profit and not have recurring losses while still being told by the board of directors (in our case the Board of County Commissioners) what a good job he or she is doing.

Then, should government be providing ball fields, hiking trails and playgrounds? I would say the answer is yes. Our parks are considered public areas that are open to all regardless of economic status. Martin County has public beaches so that our citizens can enjoy the ocean. Even a community pool open to all residents has a public policy purpose that can be publicly supported. The problem becomes when government insists that the public pool morph into an amusement park under the pretense of paying for the pool.

Should there be a public golf course? I believe the answer is yes. It should not, however, try to be a country club. Just as public ball fields should not mirror major league stadiums, neither should a publicly owned golf course need to feature the same level of play as those in the private sector. It should offer the basics with perhaps ancillary features such as a snack bar and golf lessons. These incidental amenities should be operated by businesses paying rent or fees to help maintain the facility. The same would apply at all recreational public facilities from beaches to other parks. The public sector has proven time and time again that restaurants or umbrella rentals operate much better in the private domain.

In forming a government, the people has done so to protect the common good. Government is an altruistic endeavor. We give it extraordinary power over our individual rights. Therefore, it is incumbent on citizens to make sure the organization that we have created does not go off in unintended and unnecessary directions. Nor should government infringe on the private sector unless the private sector is unable to provide products and services deemed necessary in a cost-efficient manner to all citizens.