I found myself over at Instapundit today after our own Nate Nelson’s post got a link (Congrats Nate!), and I came across a video where Glenn Reynolds is talking with the author of a book. The book is A Nation of Moochers: America’s Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing, and the author is Charles Sykes.
In his interview, Glenn says something that, frankly, I liked the way he said it. “Politicians have managed to convince people that everybody has some kind of special deal when, of course, really the house is always taking their percentage.”
He’s right. For example, take a government program designed to help with adult literacy and compare it with a non-profit set up with the same goal. Few will argue that adult literacy is somehow a bad thing.
Now, let’s say that both entities received $1 million dollars to operate in different medium sized cities. So, what is the difference between the two? Oh, that’s easy.
You see, the non-profit will generally try to operate as efficiently as possible. They know that $1 million may or may not be back, so they try to use it as judiciously as possible. They also know that results matter, so they make sure they can help as many adults read for that money as possible, primarily in hopes that the results will spur further donations. Any non-profit that fails to do that usually doesn’t get repeat donors and eventually has to close its doors. Sounds kind of free market-like, doesn’t it?
The government program, on the other hand, has no real incentive to perform. They hire staff as they feel its needed, purchase supplies as they feel its needed, then tout any person learning to read as proof that the program works. When questioned as to why they aren’t performing better, they cite a lack of funds. Eventually some politician will make sure they get their money. After all, who would be against make sure every adult can read?
The government program may go on indefinitely. While the doors may eventually shut, it won’t be due to poor performance. It will be because of budget cuts. In the mean time, plenty of government workers will receive funds with little expectation of results. The house has gotten their percentage.
One reason that private is preferable to public in my mind is simply because of that percentage. Uncle Sam (the house) will take a percentage to staff an operation with little regard to how many people are really needed to accomplish a given task. As a former DoD contractor, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
On the other hand, private entities generally have a strong desireto keep the operation lean and mean. Those that don’t usually don’t stick aroud very long.