The top 10 public options already in existence

As more and more analysts and commentators have been pointing out, the U.S., like most modern nations, has a proud tradition of providing “public options” in a host of important areas. These public structures dramatically improve the overall well-being of society by filling in the inevitable gaps that occur in a market-based society when it comes to assuring that nearly everyone has access to the necessities of modern life.

Each of them, however, could be provided (and are provided in less advanced societies – and occasionally here) through the “genius” of the market (i.e. via private “insurance” and/or through some fee-for-service mechanism).

Here, in no particular order, are my top 10 – you may have others to add.

  • Public water and sewer services — No privies or polluted wells for me
  • Police protection – Just call 911 and competent, honest folks are at my door in minutes
  • Fire protection — Ditto
  • Roads –N.C. DOT may be flawed, but imagine if streets were owned by Halliburton
  • The military – Save the private armies for Somalia
  • The courts system – One of America’s greatest achievements and a chief guarantor of the capitalist system
  • Jails – Just look at how badly our current experiments with private prisons have gone
  • The U.S. Postal Service – Amazingly cheap and effective
  • Universal public education – At the heart of our success as a democracy
  • Social Security and Medicare – Anyone who questions these should look at how older Americans lived before we had them.

Now, try to imagine a modern America in which you had to shop for (and/or maybe do without) each of these “public options.”


  1. Rob Schofield

    August 28, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Leaving out environmental protection, as well as parks and other public open space, is an obvious error. Make it the “Top 11.”

  2. Rob Schofield

    August 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Oh yeah, and libraries too.

  3. Louie

    August 28, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    lets not forget the ‘public option’ that federal employees like Barak Obama, Kay Hagan, Richard Burr, David Price, Brad Miller, etc. etc. already get:

    The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program:

    Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

    From the website:

    “The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program can help you and your family meet your health care needs. Federal employees, retirees and their survivors enjoy the widest selection of health plans in the country. You can choose from among Consumer-Driven and High Deductible plans that offer catastrophic risk protection with higher deductibles, health savings/reimbursable accounts and lower premiums, or Fee-for-Service (FFS) plans, and their Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO), or Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO) if you live (or sometimes if you work) within the area serviced by the plan”

    Details at:


  4. James

    August 29, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Burr says he doesn’t want the federal government involved in his health care. Tell him to give up his federal coverage now.


  5. IBXer

    September 1, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Public water and sewer services — Locally provided
    Police protection – Locally provided
    Fire protection — Locally provided, mostly volunteer
    Roads – are not universally provided by federal gov
    The military – Constitutionally required
    The courts system – Constitutionally required
    Jails – many are private
    The U.S. Postal Service – bankrupt
    Social Security and Medicare – bankrupt

  6. IBXer

    September 1, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Oh I forgot one.

    Public Education – the more govment gets involve and the more it spends the less our childern lern.

  7. Rob Schofield

    September 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

    As is always well-evidenced by your spelling and grammar.

  8. IBXer

    September 2, 2009 at 10:30 am

    What can I say? I went to public school in eastern North Carolina in the 70s…

  9. L. Fair

    September 7, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    The reactionary response never looks at issues clearly, but only through the lens of ideological spite. For all their talk of freedoms, they seem oddly in favor of narrowing down or eliminating the available choices. Which seems so counter to their own interests–unless, of course, they are highly placed in business that would benefit from taking over a previously publicly provided service. For the majority of us, being anti-public option is just shooting oneself in the foot. It’s SO counterproductive.

  10. […] We Love Other Public Options Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have these Public Options. If my house is burning down, I really don’t want to call 911 and have them make sure my fire […]

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