I have no doubt that the residents of Sandy Springs are enjoying the benefits that Leonard Gilroy describes, and I never said that “we should not embrace smaller steps in the interim that measurably improve outcomes for taxpayers today.”
Nevertheless, we’ve taken our eye off the ball. My opening essay was about truly competitive privatization—“socialization”—and radically shrinking government, not how to make the residents’ money go further, as worthwhile as that is. By the standard I set out, Sandy Springs is not relevant unless it can be judged as steps that can reasonably be expected to lead to competitive markets in what are now government services. (It might be a useful lesson in secession—which would please me no end! Secession and ever-smaller political jurisdictions are to be desired: They make voting with one’s feet cheaper and more feasible.)
Mr. Gilroy writes, “The major lesson learned from Sandy Springs for most observers that I’m familiar with—and one that goes a long way toward changing societal mental maps on the larger role of government—is that there’s very little that local governments do day-to-day that cannot be handled by the private sector.” That is incomplete. It should have read: There’s very little that local governments do day-to-day that cannot be handled by the private sector under exclusive contract to a coercive monopoly. That, I submit, is an essentially different lesson. Mr. Gilroy’s version may have some value, but it is not the same as teaching folks that government is unneeded to provide public services. I still do not see how government contracting can provide proof to “a skeptical public … that ideas like privatization work on a smaller scale” without equivocating over the word privatization and blurring the line between private and public sector.
Monopoly—not who pays the workers—is the fundamental problem. Contracting out leaves it unaddressed.