T he surest way to decrease the quality of a product or service, and to increase its price, is to give the government monopoly control of it.
We tend to think the state is indispensable — a “necessary evil” — and have a hard time imagining our existence without it. But that’s only because we’ve never experienced the absence of state. I mean, if you get rid of the state, how will you provide security? Mail? Fire protection? Electricity? Water? Roads?
The answer is the same as any other good or service — the market, which provides all sorts of necessary goods and services like food, clothes, newspapers, shoes, computers, telephones, and cars.
Just look at the diversity of paper products. No one fights over the kinds of paper that ought to be produced — you just shop around until you find the type you need for your particular application. No one marches in the street to demand a particular kind of coat, and we don’t have any shortage of choice in the canned goods section of the grocery store. The reason is that these products are left largely unrestricted by the government, and so their supply responds to market forces.
But the quantity and placement of roads, the kind and quality of education, the expense and use of national defense, the calorie content of school lunches — all of these are the subject of constant political conflict precisely because they are under monopoly government control. We’re told that these goods are too important to leave to the private sector, but isn’t food important? Aren’t coats important?
Of course they are, and so is police protection and judicial administration. In fact, they are far too important to allow politicians to control them. They should all be left to the private sector, along with roads, national defense, utilities, and the mail.
In any event, the importance of a product or service is not really a factor in deciding to put it under government control. The difference in importance between first class mail and the parcel service is entirely arbitrary and subjective. We allow competition for parcel shipments, but not for first class mail, and while one might be more important to you, the other might be more important to someone else. “Importance” is just a talking point used to justify government regulation.
If you want better roads, police, fire protection, insurance, medical care, national defense, education, courts, mail, electric/water/sewer/gas utilities, and on and on, then get the government out of the way and let the private sector provide them.