[var rssXML]
The Times-Herald View Today's Print Edition

Lawrence Reed

Blogs

Angela McRae

Tea with friends

Deberah Williams

Everyday Finesse

Lorrie Lynch

Who's News

USA Weekend Tween Tribune - News For Tweens
Click Here

Lawrence Reed Columnist

Published Thursday, March 07, 2013

Getting the job done better – privately

By LAWRENCE REED

Special to The Newnan Times-Herald

Privatization — turning over the management of an asset or delivery of a service to a private agency or company — is becoming an important tool in the toolkit of local governments. That’s good news at a time when cash-strapped localities and hard-pressed taxpayers deserve a break.

Just about every asset or service any local government owns or provides has been privatized somewhere in America, partially or wholly. That includes fire protection, security services, wastewater treatment, street lighting, tree trimming, snow removal, parking structures, railroads, hospitals, jails and even cemeteries.

Steve Goldsmith was a leader in municipal privatization in the 1990s, when he served as mayor of Indianapolis. He subjected more than 60 city services to competitive bidding and other forms of privatization. City employees were given the opportunity to reorganize and enter the bidding too, in competition with private firms, and quite a few times they won back the right to perform certain services. When public employees have to compete, they discover they really don’t need as many supervisors, make-work rules and coffee breaks.

The very idea of privatization can prompt officials to think about government in ways they never considered before. It forces them to find out, for instance, how much it is actually costing them to provide those services. If government simply applies a Yellow Pages test to what it does (“if it’s in the Yellow Pages, government probably shouldn’t be doing it”), it will find good reasons to privatize.

Objections to privatization are often raised. Here are three common ones, along with a brief response:

“It is anti-public employee.” Government does not exist for the benefit of those who work for it; it exists for the benefit of those who pay its bills or need its services. Governments that employ more people than necessary, or that pay their employees more than their market will bear, are not doing any favors for the citizens — including the poor — who are picking up the bill.

“It is a back-door way to destroy government.” Goldsmith once said that before he privatized city services, it was extremely difficult to resolve citizen complaints or get the bureaucracy to move on anything. Once a service is privatized, accountability is almost instantaneous. If performance suffers, the city can quickly cancel the contract and find a better provider.

“There are instances where it didn’t work, so we shouldn’t do it anywhere.” I have yet to see a case where a failure was really an indictment of privatization itself. Failures are almost always arguments for avoiding poor practices, such as noncompetitive bidding in smoke-filled backrooms, sloppy contract writing, or nonexistent monitoring of performance.

Competition, choice and accountability are almost always superior to monopoly. That’s why every town and county in America owes it to their citizens to privatize when and where it makes sense, or at least to seriously consider it.

Comment On This Story

Times-Herald.com does not necessarily agree with the comments posted below. Responsibility of comments rests solely with the writer. Comments posted in ALL CAPS will be deleted.

Submission of a comment does not guarantee publication. Comments will be posted by a moderator after being scanned for abusive language, relevance, etc. See our Comments FAQ for more details.

Most Popular

  • Viewed
  • Emailed
  • Commented
  1. Obituary: Ms. Dawn Michelle Kraker, 41, of Newnan, GA, passed away Saturday, July 19, 2014. She was born on Jan. 26, 1973. She is preceded in death by her father, Raymond Roberts Jr. Dawn is survived by her parents, Billy and Carol Parmer of Concord, GA; daughter, Sabrina Kraker of Griffin, GA; son, Joshua Kraker of Fayetteville, GA; sister and brother-in-law, Kelly and Randy Moore of Concord, GA; niece, Hailey Moore of Concord, GA; nephew, Gage Moore of Concord, GA; grandmother, Wanda Bailey of Senoia, GA; and many other family members and friends. A visitation will be held on Wednesday, July 23, from 6-8 p.m. at Carmichael-Hemperley Funeral Home in Peachtree City, GA. The funeral service will be held in the funeral home chapel on Thursday, July 24, at 2 p.m. She will lie in state for one hour prior to the service.
  2. With GOP runoff over, Perdue and Nunn face off
  3. Obituary: Mrs. Janice LaVerne Jones Carter Cauthen departed this earthly life on July 21, 2014, at the age of 82, 31 days before her next birthday.
  4. Obituary: Ms. Rachael Marie Hamil, age 20, beloved daughter of Jeanne and Tom, passed away unexpectedly after a brief hospitalization on July 20, 2014.
  5. Deaths published on 7/23/2014
  6. Obituary: Kimberly Jean Melchiorre, 49, of Sharpsburg, Ga., passed away at her home surrounded by her loved ones on Friday, July 18, 2014.
  7. Arrest Log for 7/23/2014
  8. Restaurant Inspection for 7/23/2014
  9. Swords barely misses cut at USGA Girls Amateur
  10. Cameron Daniel wins division at Hurricane Junior event
Week In Review »
  1. Obituary: Ms. Dawn Michelle Kraker, 41, of Newnan, GA, passed away Saturday, July 19, 2014. She was born on Jan. 26, 1973. She is preceded in death by her father, Raymond Roberts Jr. Dawn is survived by her parents, Billy and Carol Parmer of Concord, GA; daughter, Sabrina Kraker of Griffin, GA; son, Joshua Kraker of Fayetteville, GA; sister and brother-in-law, Kelly and Randy Moore of Concord, GA; niece, Hailey Moore of Concord, GA; nephew, Gage Moore of Concord, GA; grandmother, Wanda Bailey of Senoia, GA; and many other family members and friends. A visitation will be held on Wednesday, July 23, from 6-8 p.m. at Carmichael-Hemperley Funeral Home in Peachtree City, GA. The funeral service will be held in the funeral home chapel on Thursday, July 24, at 2 p.m. She will lie in state for one hour prior to the service.
  2. With GOP runoff over, Perdue and Nunn face off
  3. Obituary: Mrs. Janice LaVerne Jones Carter Cauthen departed this earthly life on July 21, 2014, at the age of 82, 31 days before her next birthday.
  4. Obituary: Ms. Rachael Marie Hamil, age 20, beloved daughter of Jeanne and Tom, passed away unexpectedly after a brief hospitalization on July 20, 2014.
  5. Deaths published on 7/23/2014
  6. Obituary: Kimberly Jean Melchiorre, 49, of Sharpsburg, Ga., passed away at her home surrounded by her loved ones on Friday, July 18, 2014.
  7. Arrest Log for 7/23/2014
  8. Restaurant Inspection for 7/23/2014
  9. Swords barely misses cut at USGA Girls Amateur
  10. Cameron Daniel wins division at Hurricane Junior event
Week In Review »

© 2011 The Newnan Times-Herald Inc., Newnan, Georgia. Any unauthorized use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.