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.”