My Gedanken Experiments

Sinister Writings (from the left)

There are some things that require government help

Aug 19, 2011 | Blogroll, Economy, Politics, Rants and essays | 38 comments

The chorus is always about having things done in the private sector.  “They are more efficient, they are less expensive, they are more democratic.”  In fact, there are some things that can’t be left to the private sector or they simply won’t get done.  If the Conservatives who treasure the private sector to the point of starving the public sector were to take a serious and reasoned look at their world, they would know the truth to this.


For purposes of this diary, I consider programs paid for by the government to be public sector even though the companies that did the work were private (owned by stockholders rather than the state).

I use Rand Paul as a straw man because he volunteered.  Mr. Paul, do you use a cell phone?  It uses GPS technology that was developed in the public sector (military).  GPS is now used to locate cell phones to send the calls, time stamp financial transactions, find fires and lost hikers and any number of commercial things.  However, it took several years and billions of dollars to develop and deploy.  The private sector does not spend billions of dollars and several years for risky technologies.

How about the satellites that transmit your cell phone signals?  While today commercial companies do launch and own satellites, they did not develop the technology.  They did not develop the ability to survive outside the atmosphere, they did not develop the technology to propel the satellites into space, they did not develop the ability to transmit the signals from one satellite to another and eventually ensure it would reach your own particular phone.  This technology was many years in the making, in the government sector.

Mr. Paul, do you travel by air?  Private companies do not build or maintain most international airports.  There would be  a major mess if many private companies owned airports in the same city.  Further, the development and maintenance of an airport is extremely expensive.  How about air traffic control?  Run by private companies?  It boggles the mind how they would keep the aircraft under control with several air traffic control systems competing with each other for business.

Once the signal gets to the ground, how does your phone call travel?  Private telephone lines?  If you are fortunate enough to have fiber optics carrying your signal, that was developed for government programs.

Mr. Paul, you are an eye surgeon.  Do you use the laser in your practice?  Where do you think that technology was developed?  Do you use imaging technology to look at the patient’s eyes?  How about other medical uses?  Sonograms?  MRIs?  Any type of imaging?  Where do you think that original technology came from?

Mr. Paul, do you have your home heated?  Is it by a private company or a public utility?  How about your water?  What about the road that leads to your office – is it owned and maintained by a private company?  What a joy that would be to have private businesses own every road and charge for its use individually.  If you dislike toll booths now, you are just beginning to get the picture.

Has there ever been a break-in on your block?  Who responded, a private security firm?  Who would you turn to if you had a fire in your building?

Sometimes government investment has side benefits.  Have you ever used WD40?  Velcro?  Teflon?  Graphite Epoxy?  Many of the materials we use in building were initially created in government funded programs, some by accident and some quite on purpose.

Mr. Paul (and anybody who thinks like you), every day you violate your own words by turning to the product of public investment.  The full list is too long for this diary.  But I think it is time you take a close look at what you are proposing.  The result of implementing your beliefs would be at best technological stagnation.


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