By Nathan Barton
For decades, I have seen this happen, and it long precedes my lifetime. Governments, constantly seeking more and more power (control) and (of course) money, are quick to take advantage of perceived lack of services in (and around) their jurisdiction. Even if they have to create the perception in the first place. The politicians and their minions in paperwork (always in coordination with the so-called “public-interest” do-gooders and their kind) quickly come up with a solution to the perceived “critical” problem. This problem, no matter what it is and no matter how unimportant it might be, can ONLY be solved by quick (and well-funded) government intervention.
Once upon a time it was so-called basic “essential” services: water and sewage, “public safety” (fire protection and “keeping the peace”). The essential list quickly expanded. There was trash collection and disposal. Orphan homes. Care for the aged (welfare). Care for the poor and then the unemployed. Electrical power. Telephones. Streets. Heat. Street lighting. Medical care. They ran out of major items half a century ago. But the process was smoothly developed by then. So they expanded. Swimming pools in public parks. Golf courses. Tennis courts. Gymnasiums. Libraries. Recreation centers. Skateboard parks. Ski areas (water and snow). Concert halls. Playhouses. Movie theatres. Childrens’ clubs (another type of recreation center). And on and on. In fact, some local governments were created JUST to provide some newly decreed essential service.
Local government therefore grew fat and powerful. It was no longer a provider of last resort, but the first and preferred provider of these great “essential” works of “public services” which must be provided to maintain and improve the standard of living for the citizens of these local governments. In most of these expansions of government services, the government-provided service replaced those services being provided by private, voluntary enterprise. In the rest, the government preempted the providing of those services by private enterprise. Private, for-profit (or at least fondly Hoped-for profit) enterprises. Thus denying opportunities to make a living, make a profit, become successful entrepreneurs.
And in virtually every one of these, the cost of those new government services was provided by taxing people – by stealing money (and therefore time) from the citizens and visitors and neighbors. Whether they used (or needed) those services or not. Free-will voluntary associations of firefighters. Companies investing their own money in building and operating electrical systems and water and waste-water systems and landfills and trash collection. Gyms and recreation facilities supported voluntarily by those using them: golf courses and tennis courts and basketball gyms and weightlifting gyms and even campgrounds and running tracks and horseshoe courts.
The latest relatively large scale example of this is found in Fort Collins, Colorado, as reported at a website “Next Big Future.” Fort Collins, with nearly 200,000 people, is far from the first local government to make a conscious effort to put several (or even dozens) of private companies out of business by providing a service to their local patrons at a price that private business can’t match.
Why is this? Several factors are involved. First, as I pointed out, tax-supported activities are always at an advantage. If every property owner (and wage earner) in the city must pay for a facility whether they use it or not, the money rolls in! How much easier is it to have the revenue to pay for the service AND generate a hefty profit for the local government! And its politicians, appointees, and enforcers (in addition to the real workers, who probably make less and have much less opportunity than they would in a free market). And of course, businesses themselves will pay taxes which go to support their civic competitors! Second, being a government entity has many advantages in the American economy: they are exempt from many taxes (such as property taxes) and many of the regulatory requirements, licensing fees, and other burdens on private business and individuals. Especially when it comes to financing insurance and liability costs. And of course, who could doubt the sincerity and ability of a government entity to provide better services at a better price, because after all, they are and work for the people. They have no profit, no profit motive – or so we are constantly taught in schools and from DC, in the media and in a constant barrage of propaganda.
Indeed, there are many laws which exist (for whatever reasons) that make it EASIER for many services to be provided by government agencies. And no explicit prohibition on government competing with private business.
So Fort Collins is far from the only local government which is going to provide “unlimited” and “high-bandwidth” and of course, “high-speed” internet to everyone – public, private, business, individual, education, etc. etc. – in its community. Putting out of business the very companies that created the modern internet (not the pallid and flimsy network which was primarily for military and government use which once existed). The very businesses that gambled capital and time and materials and literally sweat to meet the demand for communications and information.
And most of us just sit there and think about how wonderful it will be to have all of this. To depend on GOVERNMENT, of all things, for the information and contact necessary for our lives and work. How wonderful.
Mama’s Note: Not only that, Nathan, but these government “providers” are usually not accountable to anyone but themselves. As we have seen in so many other things, when government takes a majority – or outright monopoly – of something, their “customers” have little or no recourse when the “service” is not provided, or when it does actual harm. Police “protection” is a prime example. They actually have zero obligation to “protect” anyone… except the government that created them. And when they harm people and communities, there is little or nothing that can be done about it.
As with health care and health “insurance”… if you think it is expensive and bad now, just wait until it is “free.”