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ProfessorPlum's Journal
ProfessorPlum's Journal
June 27, 2014

Just for fun . . an exchange with a Foxbot on Facebook

The names have been changed to protect the guilty. A = the original poster. B = Foxbot. C = third person. Me = Me.

A: Posts picture of snowplows clearing a road, with caption: Evil Socialism at Work

B: I suppose the real example would be to compare a private, toll road and a state-owned road come snow fall. I am willing to bet the private owned road would be maintained quicker and better than the latter. Also, lol @ Socialism.

A: So we should have to pay tolls to drive anywhere?

B: Socialism only works in theory. That's about it. Wasn't Detroit the picture of Socialism? How is that working for them? Municipal services are vastly overworked or pretty much non-existent. Socialism doesn't work and it never will.

Me: socialism rocks. Libraries, parks, fire departments, the armed forces . . . all great socialistic institutions.

C: European socialism works in practice. It's a balance.

B: Europe is in trouble as well. I just can't get on board the "More Gov is better" train. What is the Government doing that the private sector can't do cheaper and more efficiently?

Me: B, I got busy and didn't get a chance yet to write back about this, but I'll try to give some examples.
Providing and maintaining a federal currency.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines
Conducting international diplomacy. The National Parks system
Police departments. Fire departments. Funding scientific and academic research.
Providing direct health care for veterans. Providing health coverage for older Americans.
Maintaining a nationwide patent library and a system of courts where contracts are protected.
The CDC - tracking outbreaks of disease, monitoring private products for infectious agents.
The FAA, making sure airlines and airplanes are safe
The FDA, to make sure people aren't selling worthless snake oil as medicine, and that your hamburger isn't 100% E coli
Public libraries.
The Post Office. Ever try to send something to Bumblef*ck, Alaska with Fedex? The PO will do it for pennies.
Keeping people alive is a province that the government does quite well, and the private sector does hardly at all - FEMA, food stamps, hot lunch programs, heating programs, welfare, widows and orphan benefits through social security
Space exploration.
Emergency services. 911.
Interstate highways.
The FDIC, to protect your deposits against fraudulent bankers/banking practices.
the SEC, to make sure that the stock market isn't _totally_ controlled and run as a huge fraud.
Wetlands conservation. Public education.
Electrical grids in rural areas. Left to the private sector, much of America would still not have electricity.
Government research gave us both the internet and the global positioning system.
Sewers and waste treatment.
Anyway, that is just to name a few. Did i mention a court system that allows people standing with the most powerful forces in society?

The myth of private sector efficiency is one I don't understand, either. Anyone who has worked in the private sector has seen a never-ending list of foolish, costly, inefficient, stupid, redundant decisions that are every bit as inefficient and self-defeating as anything the government does. Just watching the pharma industry over the last 20 years - the lack of investment in basic research, the mergers and acquisitions, the opening and closing of sites, the waste - has broken that lie into a million pieces.

Even in sectors where the government and the private sector compete in doing the same task, like primary education or providing health coverage, the government version often beats the pants off of the private sector. For example, medicare administration only loses about 4 cents for every dollar in administrative costs. Compare that to 15-30 percent for private coverage. (And that is with government-imposed caps on what insurance companies are allowed to "lose" in administrative overhead). The government is clearly running that more efficiently (because no profit motive). And I see no proof that private schools are run more efficiently/cheaply than public schools, especially where the differences in their clientele are taken into account.

B: Currency - The Government stole from the people when they removed the silver content of U.S. coins decades ago. They did it again now that the dollar isn't backed by gold. New money being printed like Monopoly money means our dollars are worth less and less.
Armed forces - who are companies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy? Why is the private military contractor industry now a $100 billion a year industry?
Intl diplomacy - like running military weaponry and money to countries that hate us and groups that have known ties to Al-Qaeda?
Police/Fire - likewise, private security is booming in Detroit. Police can't or won't respond. Fire and rescue has ridiculous response times and the Gov has no money to hire more resources.
Research - do you really think the Gov is possible of more efficient research and innovation than the private sector? 3D printing technology has astounding potential. Almost immediately, the Gov rushed to create legislation to ban/regulate the budding industry.
Veterans medical care - have you talked to people that have to deal with the VA?
Postal service - how much money does the USPS lose every year? If the USPS is so great, why has UPS/Fedex/DHL grown like they have?
FEMA - remember the Superdome after Katrina? No thanks.
Food stamps - yeah, I am thrilled people can buy Redbull and Monster Energy on the taxpayer's dime. Because even when you need Gov assistance to put food on the table, sometimes you just need an energy boost.
Social Security - a good example of something else that the Gov has pillaged and destroyed. I do not plan on SS being around when I am able to retire in 20 years.

Me: that's a lot of Fox nonsense.
Your complaint about currency is nonsensical and has nothing to do with private/public sector inefficiency. most of the world's economists agree that decoupling currency from metals is an incredibly smart thing to do.
Blackwater and companies like it will feed on the government teat happily, but I've yet to see any analysis that shows that they provide more efficient (more service per dollar spent) service than the regular army. That's because in addition to having to do the services they are contracted for, they also have to provide a return to their owners, which makes them more costly than the regular army.

International diplomacy means talking to other governments.

when public services are starved of funding, as in Detroit, they fail. Big surprise. Fire departments and police departments work very well in 99.9% of American cities, and I'm guessing that includes yours.

Yes, I do think that government funds very efficient and excellent research. I have sat on NIH funding panels and read proposals and seen how that sausage is made. Not only do they fund excellent, important research, it is often research that won't necessarily turn a buck instantly, and so no private sector funding will touch it. Your very life probably depends upon research that has been supported by government spending.

B: I'll save you a lot of typing, PP. Let's agree to disagree and move on. Best wishes, man.

Me: Yes, I have talked to people who have used the VA, and also people who have worked within the VA. Like most other government services that actually help people, it is being systematically defunded by conservatives, and is unfortunately not as good today as it used to be. However, name me the private service which is providing better, more efficient healthcare to veterans than the VA. You cannot.

Ok, happy ignorance B

The Post Office is self-sufficient, and has only suffered a deficit in recent years because of Republican legislation that has required it to fund its pension for 75 years into the future. 75 years! Apart from this accounting trick, the Post Office is doing quite well for itself. Again, when I can send something to the other side of the country via Fedex for 60 cents, we can talk.

Yes, FEMA run by people who don't believe that government can or should help people (Bush and his cronies) did a terrible job in Katrina. I await your tales of all of the private sector businesses who rushed into New Orleans and did a great job with it. On the other hand, FEMA did an excellent job with hurricane Irene and many other instances.

Again, which private sector entities are keeping people alive by providing them food, and which are doing it more efficiently than that foodstamp program (which is one of the best ways that government spending stimulates the economy, by the way)

Social Security. I could go on and on about what a great (and very stable, and well-funded) program Social Security is, despite all of the ignorant propaganda around it. Rest assured that the rest of us won't let the plutocrats kill this program before you get to benefit from it. With the 401K disaster looming, SS is going to become more important than ever before. Another example of the public sector doing something important successfully with far less fraud, waste, and failure than the private sector.

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