The classic political study Crisis and Leviathan, by Robert Higgs, argues that the state often exploits the sense of urgency that attends a crisis to enlarge itself as the way to “solve” the problem — even when government itself created the problem.
The federal government’s profligate credit policies, which fueled the now-busted housing bubble, come to mind. The government’s “solution” here is to lard some failed companies with subsidies and nationalize others. Why? Oh, no time to think, just hurry up and do it before investors get even more jittery.
Sometimes, though, officials scrambling for a solution consider solutions that might actually help. Crumbling infrastructure is on the minds of many city and state politicians. But the tough economy is also on their minds. Many are therefore more open these days to the idea of private financing of roads
and bridges. As Norman Mineta, former transportation secretary, puts it, ”Budget gaps are starting to increase the viability of public-private partnerships.”
I don’t know about the “partnership” part of it. Too often such ”partnerships” mean that a business is prevented from making good decisions, or is protected from the costs of bad decisions.
If we’re going to delegate a train or road to a private company, let them take full responsibility for it. Companies that succeed will get us from here to there just fine. And taxpayers won’t have to cough up money for the ones that fail.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.