By Nathan Barton
There are a number of utilities that we all take for granted, as long as we live in a town here in Anglo-America:
Water supply and distribution – domestic, potable, uncontaminated
Sanitary sewage collection and treatment
Electrical power (grid)
Natural gas (for heating)
Storm water collection and discharge
Access (streets and roads) including maintenance and repair
Video (television, either cable or broadcast)
Audio (radio, either cable or broadcast) including two-way
Internet (may be provided in various ways including wireless and satellite)
Emergency alert (siren, flags, wireless, etc.)
Solid waste (including recyclables):
There are a number of so-called “public services” that we all take for granted, as long as we live in a town here in Anglo-America:
Hard-copy communication (“mail” collection and delivery)
Package collection and delivery
Fire-fighting and hazardous releases
Medical care and transportation
What do we note about this? Here in the Fifty States, these services are provided by government agencies in some locations, by government-approved/authorized private companies in some and by essentially unregulated private companies or individuals.
Two of these items I list are featured in some recent news. Legionnaires’ outbreaks in Flint linked to corrosive tap water. Corrosion in drinking water pipes allows deadly bacteria to flourish. As reported by Janet Pelley, we see that Flint’s problems are far from over. It is just more evidence that public health is too important to leave to governments. So is providing drinking water. And that people who depend on government for their necessities should understand the risks that they are taking.
So, the question needs to be asked, is there ANY reason that ANY of these services or utilities need to be provided by government agencies? Or even government-approved agencies?
Although I am not going to attempt to provide any “proof” for my answer, it is a simple matter: there is NO REASON that makes ANY sense for these services to be provided by government agencies except for ONE: Control. Every one of these services provided by government is one more way in which government exercises power over individuals: both real (flesh-and-blood) and artificial (corporations etc.) persons. In other words: POWER is the excuse to take away the free market, the liberty of people to choose for themselves from whom to buy these services. Government power trumps liberty.
The answer to the question regarding government-approved agencies/organizations is the same. Control; there is NO REASON that government agencies need to approve the organizations that provide these services. This, of course, is something that statists will loudly and at length object to -“somebody has to regulate these things which are natural monopolies,” and “somebody needs to set standards and then make these organizations meet those standards.”
History shows that this is nonsense. “Natural monopolies” are nothing more than challenges to be defeated by ingenious entrepreneurs out to make a buck. Communications is an example of that. Phone service, anyone? Natural monopolies are excuses for government-controlled monopolies, whereby people with pull get government to lock in a system which benefits them – and screws consumers of their services. The same is true for providing power and… though more challenging, water and waste water services. We are in the process of seeing power monopolies collapse, in areas where government allows that to happen. IF you have multiple sources from which to obtain power, then there is no need for government to enforce most standards (if, indeed ANY standards are necessary to be enforced by guns rather than voluntary agreement).
[I can already hear, “Nathan, that is stupid, how can you say that providing electrical power isn’t a natural monopoly?” The answer is very simple. 95% of American homes and businesses are served by both electric power utilities and natural gas utilities. A relatively inexpensive generator can either burn natural gas or use natural gas in a fuelcell to produce electricity. (And in rural areas, propane or – gasp! Diesel or gasoline.) This is in addition to less dependable but supplemental sources of electricity such as solar and wind, and still immature technologies like buried heat-differential generation, bio-sources, and various Tesla devices. All of which are delayed in development, as compared to what would happen in a free market, because it would threaten the government-backed monopolies.
Looking back in history, even in the past 100-150 years right here in the Fifty States, we see that many of these services WERE provided by private agencies, firms, and persons in the past and NOT considered to be a part of government. And we see in many parts of the world where things we take for granted to be private business (even if regulated to a horrible degree by government) to be government-owned and -operated: health services, airlines, railroads, and phone service, to name a few. Of course, in the past 50 years, we have seen governments at all levels here in the Fifty States compete, take over, and drive out of business more and more private providers.
The reason for this is simple: control by, and power of, government. As government has grown, its expansion of power is even more rapid, and the more it has, the more it wants.
But now? Enough is enough.
Mama’s Note: When you see the word “government” here at The Price of Liberty, it generally refers to a NON-Voluntary government. Voluntary organizations that people might set up to take care of such things would not have the same power or destructive consequences. There is plenty of room for voluntary association and cooperation in a society of individual liberty. If they want to call their organization a “government,” that’s not going to be a problem. As long as people can choose to vote with their feet and their wallets.